Dzhioyeva declares herself president of South Ossetia

By bne IntelliNews December 1, 2011

bne -

Alla Dzhioyeva, the opposition candidate who took over 56% of the vote in South Ossetia's November 27 presidential election, has declared herself president, ignoring November 29's ruling from the breakaway republic's Supreme Court annulling the election.

On the morning of November 30, Dzhioyeva set up a government council that will rule the tiny republic, which under international law is still part of Georgia. "The council will operate until a legitimate government is formed," her spokeswoman Aza Khabalova told journalists.

Dzhioyeva's first mission as leader was to visit the Russian embassy in Tshkinvili, where she requested that Moscow recognise the result of the elections and acknowledge the defeat of Russia's preferred candidate Anatoly Bibilov. South Ossetia is dependent on Russia politically, militarily and financially.

The Supreme Court said the election was null and void due to violations of the electoral process and scheduled new elections for March 25. The Supreme Court's ruling followed complaints about the conduct of Dzhioyeva's supporters from the rival Unity Party. The Unity Party's candidate Bibilov claimed that he should have been the winner.

A spokesman for the court said that Dzhioyeva would be barred from standing in next year's elections as violations had been established, RIA Novosti reported. "Alla Dzhioyeva cannot take part in the new presidential elections. She is deprived of this right as the court established violations," court spokesman Atsamaz Bichenov told journalists.

The day after the elections, South Ossetia's Central Electoral Commission said that with almost all ballots counted, Dzhioyeva was in the lead with 56.74% of the vote. However, both candidates claimed they were the winner, with Bibilov telling journalists he had a seven point lead.

Dzhioyeva boycotted the Supreme Court hearing and her spokesman said the court's decision was a "power takeover."

The Unity Party says it plans to make a decision within the next 10 days over whether it will put forward Bibilov or another candidate in the March elections.

In the first round of the presidential election, held on November 13, Dzhioyeva and Bibilov were neck and neck with 25.44% and 25.37% of the vote respectively. Since neither candidate reached the threshold for an outright victory, a second round took place October 27, resulting in a 16-point lead for Dzhioyeva.

The main policy difference between the candidates concerns South Ossetia's relationship with its giant neighbour Russia. Dzhioyeva is committed to maintaining South Ossetia's hard-won independence, while Bibilov favours eventual integration with Russia, allowing South Ossetia to be re-united with North Ossetia, which lies across the Russian border.

South Ossetia, which has a population of just 60,000, declared its independence from Georgia just before the breakup of the Soviet Union, and it has been de facto independent ever since although it remains part of Georgia.

In August 2008, war broke out between Georgia and Russia over South Ossetia. In the five-day war, Georgian troops were driven out of South Ossetia, and Russia formally recognised the republic's independence. In the last three years, Venezuela, Nicaragua and several small Pacific Island nations also recognised South Ossetia as an independent state but the wider international community still considers the republic to be part of Georgia.

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