A pro-Russian former KGB officer appeared set on Sunday to win a presidential election run-off in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia, where Moscow is seeking to re-assert control. Preliminary results announced by the election commission showed Leonid Tibilov, 60, leading human rights ombudsman David Sanakoyev with about 55.8 percent of votes against his rival’s 41.3 after 67 percent of the ballots had been counted. The tiny region of about 30,000 people declared independence after a 2008 war between Russia and Georgia but remains heavily dependent on Moscow’s financial help and military protection amid growing dissatisfaction over how funds are spent.
Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia held a run-off vote Sunday to elect a leader after months of political turmoil. Former local head of the KGB security service Leonid Tibilov was facing human rights commissioner David Sanakoyev after falling short of the 50 percent required to win in the first round, with 42.5 percent of votes last month. Residents of South Ossetia’s main town Tkhinvali slowly gathered at polling stations to cast ballots after polls opened at 8 a.m. local time on the day when the mostly Orthodox Christian region celebrates Palm Sunday. About 35,000 people are registered voters at the 84 polling stations in the impoverished region where a heavy Russian military presence remains after the 2008 war with Georgia.
As anticipated, none of the four candidates in the March 25 repeat election for de facto president of Georgia’s unrecognized region of South Ossetia polled the 50 percent plus one vote required for a clear first-round win. A runoff has accordingly been scheduled for April 8 between opposition-backed candidate Leonid Tibilov, who polled 42.48 percent of the vote, and human rights ombudsman David Sanakoyev, who finished second with 24.58 percent. The original election for a successor to Eduard Kokoity, who was barred by the constitution from seeking a third consecutive presidential term, degenerated into a major political standoff after the republic’s Supreme Court annulled the second-round victory on November 27 of opposition candidate Alla Dzhioyeva.
Five heavily armed men in uniforms pace up and down the narrow corridor outside the cardiology ward at the hospital in Tskhinval, the capital of South Ossetia, which declared its independence from Georgia after the 2008 Russia-Georgia war. Their mission it to prevent reporters and political and human rights activists from visiting Alla Dzhioyeva, the 62-year-old woman who insists she was elected president last November. Dzhioyeva has been receiving treatment since South Ossetian riot police raided her election headquarters Feb. 9, and roughed her up. She was assaulted and knocked unconscious, she said, on the eve of what was supposed to be her inauguration. But the presidential election was not recognized by the South Ossetian authorities. The Supreme Court invalidated the results of the November poll and scheduled a new vote for March 25. Dzhioyeva is not participating in the new election. In a phone interview, she said she has become “a hostage” of the political machination enveloping the region.
Voters in Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia will go to the polls on Sunday to try to choose a president for the third time in less than five months. Two rounds of voting in November delivered victory to Alla Dzhioyeva, a long-time opponent of the outgoing president Eduard Kokoity in the Russia-backed self-proclaimed republic. The region’s supreme court, chaired by a Kokoity ally, overturned the result, leading to protests by Ms Dzhioyeva’s supporters and clashes with police. This time the field is less clear, with all candidates distancing themselves from Mr Kokoity and Russia not expressing any preference. Pro-Kremlin Mr Kokoity had been president of the region since 2001, but faced accusations from the opposition and former aides of cronyism and mismanagement of Russian aid after the 2008 Russo-Georgian war. He quit in December, but his allies still wield significant influence in parliament and the judiciary.
Troops fired warning shots into the air Wednesday as thousands rallied to support a presidential candidate whose apparent victory over a Kremlin-backed rival was annulled in the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia. A handful of soldiers who guarded the main government building in the capital of Tskhinvali fired the shots as several thousand supporters of Alla Dzhioyeva approached. Marching in the heavy snow, they chanted her name and shouted “Justice!”
South Ossetians broke away from Georgia in a war in the early 1990s. Spiraling tensions between pro-Russian separatists and the Western-learning Georgian government triggered a brief war between Russia and Georgia in 2008. Since then, Russia recognized South Ossetia as an independent nation, but only a few other nations around the world followed suit.
South Ossetia does not need a new presidential election, the candidate whose apparent victory over a Kremlin-backed rival was annulled in the breakaway Georgian province said Thursday. As anti-corruption crusader Alla Dzhioyeva spoke, armed troops surrounded the government building in the separatist capital of Tskhinvali, gearing up for a rally of her supporters.
Dzhioyeva declared herself president after she led with about 57 percent of Sunday’s runoff vote with ballots from 74 of the 85 precincts counted, while rival Anatoly Bibilov trailed with 40 percent. But the separatist government annulled the vote due to alleged violations and barred Dzhioyeva from participating in the new vote.
“I won my election, 17,000 out of 30,000 (voters) cast their ballots for me,” the 62-year-old former school principal told journalists. “This is our victory, and they want to steal it.” She said thousands of supporters would rally later in the day in front of the government building as South Ossetia’s Supreme Court deliberates her appeal on the annulment and whether she is allowed to run in the March re-vote.
The Supreme Court in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia asked the election commission on Monday to delay the announcement of results in a run-off presidential poll for a day so it could examine a complaint by one of the candidates.
Anatoly Bibilov, the region’s emergencies minister, and Alla Dzhioyeva, its former education minister, competed on Sunday to become South Ossetia’s first new president since Russia recognised the sliver of land as independent after Moscow’s brief 2008 war with pro-Western Georgia.
South Ossetia’s Central Election Commission said preliminary results looking at more than half the ballots cast, showed Dzhioyeva won with 56 percent of votes, while Bibilov received 40 percent. But Bibilov accused his rival of foul play and filed a complaint to the region’s Supreme Court, citing voting violations, while Dzhioyeva called on him to admit defeat.
An opposition candidate appeared Monday to have won a presidential election in the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia, defeating the Kremlin’s chosen candidate in the Russia-allied enclave.
Former Education Minister Alla Dzhioyeva was leading with about 57 percent of Sunday’s run-off vote against 40 percent for Emergencies Minister Anatoly Bibilov with ballots from 74 of the 85 precincts counted, the South Ossetian election commission said.
U.S. Department of State Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said Sunday’s presidential elections in Georgia’s former republic of South Ossetia were illegitimate. Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and another former Georgian region – Abkhazia – in 2008, following a five-day war with Georgia, which began when Georgia attacked South Ossetia, where most residents are Russian passport holders.
Moscow’s decision has been condemned by many nations, including the United States, but a few other countries followed Russia’s suit to recognize the independence of the two regions, which Georgia considers part of its sovereign territory “occupied by the Russian armed forces.”
Referring to South Ossetia as a “Georgian region,” Toner said that his country continues to support Georgia’s territorial integrity within the internationally accepted borders and would not recognize the results or legitimacy of the polls
Presidential elections in the republic of South Ossetia will continue to a second round as none of the 11 candidates managed to top the 50 per cent of the vote required by law.
“None of the candidates will be elected president of South Ossetia,” the head of the Central Election Commission, Bella Plieva, said on Monday after 98.84% of the votes had been counted. “Most of the votes went to Anatoly Bibilov (25.44%) and Alla Dzhioeva (25.37%)… If none of the candidates gets the necessary amount of ballots, the Central Election Commission calls a rerun election.”