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.
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.