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.
Can voters be trusted with democracy? Not in Russia: Vladimir Putin barred plausible alternative candidates from standing and rigged votes to ensure his victory in the recent presidential election. If Mr Putin thought more highly of voters in Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia, he miscalculated. In November they voted for Alla Dzhioyeva over Anatoly Bibilov, the Russia-backed candidate. But the Supreme Court in Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital, annulled Ms Dzhioyeva’s victory, citing unconvincing allegations of fraud. The electorate has been given a second chance to get it right this Sunday, and the authorities have ensured Ms Dzhioyeva is no longer on the ballot. Voters in Georgia’s other breakaway region, Abkhazia, were given more leeway in last summer’s presidential vote when they chose Alexander Ankvab over Sergei Shamba, Russia’s preferred candidate. Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president, even congratulated Mr Ankvab by telephone. Parliamentary elections in the region, on March 10th, were similar.
South Ossetia, a tiny central-Asian state, had a presidential election this weekend. If you are wondering why you’ve never heard of the country, its probably because most of the world doesn’t recognize it. After the Russian-Georgian conflict in 2008, breakaway Russian-dominated state South Ossetia was recognized by Russia and a few other countries, such as Venezuela, Nicaragua and the two Pacific island nations of Tuvalu and Nauru. The rest of the world still views it as a part of Georgia
And when we say an election, that word should be used with caution too. Time’s Simon Schuster does a good job setting the scene for the somewhat crazy situation before the election even started as pro-Kremlin groups tried to ensure the pro-Kremlin president remained in power:
“In June, a group of armed men, representing the South Ossetian army and the office of the presidential guard, walked into the parliament building and demanded that the lawmakers allow President Kokoity to stay for a third term in office. This would require changing the constitution, which the lawmakers refused to do. Several of them, barricaded inside the chamber by the armed intruders, called the press to complain of a “military coup,” and Kokoity quickly got nervous.
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