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.
In the November poll, 17 candidates stood in the first round, but this time the electoral commission has registered only four out of 22 applicants. All four support Russia and oppose any form of engagement with Georgia. Dmitry Medoyev has been South Ossetia’s envoy to Moscow since 2002. Although a government insider, he vows to disband parliament to stop Kokoity trying to regain power and promises tighter supervision of Russian aid.
Leonid Tibilov was head of the South Ossetian KGB in 1992-1998, later serving as first deputy prime minister and co-chairman of a Georgian-Ossetian peacekeeping commission. He is backed by Dzhambulat Tedeyev, a prominent Kokoity opponent who supported Alla Dzhioyeva in the November election. Russian commentators see him as the candidate best placed to pick up the votes of Ms Dzhioyeva’s supporters.
Davit Sanakoyev has been South Ossetia’s human rights ombudsman since 2004. Born in 1976, he is the youngest candidate. Political analyst Dina Alborova says his youth is an asset as he can present himself as a “man of a new mindset”.
Stanislav Kochiyev, the veteran Communist Party leader who was parliament speaker in 1999-2004, came second to Kokoity in the 2001 presidential election. He recently suffered a stroke.