Opposition candidate leads in South Ossetia's presidential election

By bne IntelliNews November 28, 2011

bne -

Opposition leader Alla Dzhioyeva has taken a lead of around 16% over her Moscow-backed rival Anatoly Bibilov in the October 27 presidential elections of South Ossetia, a breakaway region of Georgia.

With results from 74 of the self-declared (and Russian-backed) republic's 85 districts counted, Dzhioyeva had 56.7% of votes and Bibilov 40% in the second round of the presidential elections, according to a statement from the South Ossetian Central Election Commission (CEC). Turnout was high at 72% of registered voters, which is just over 27,000 people. "Dzhioyeva leads in South Ossetia's presidential elections," the head of the CEC, Bella Pliyeva, told journalists in Tshkinvili this morning, RIA Novosti reported.

Dzhioyeva is now expected to succeed Eduard Kokoity, who is banned under South Ossetia's election rules from standing since he has already served two consecutive terms as president.

However, the CEC has had to postpone announcing the official result of the election until allegations of vote buying and illegal campaigning made to the Supreme Court by the ruling Unity party are investigated.

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. In the run-off, the winner is determined by a simple majority.


The key issue dividing the two candidates is South Ossetia's future relationship with Russia, with whom Georgia fought a five-day war in 2008 after a series of incidents on the border between Georgia and South Ossetia.

Dzhioyeva is committed to maintaining South Ossetia's hard-won independence, and while she advocates close ties with Russia, is opposed to absorption into the Russian Federation. Bibilov on the other hand is in favour of eventual integration with Russia, which would allow South Ossetia to be re-united with North Ossetia, which lies across the Russian border.

The result of the election seems to be a setback for any plans Moscow may have of taking over in South Ossetia. "The backing of the opposition candidate, Alla Dzhioyeva, in the first round, signals that many in South Ossetia would prefer to maintain their independence not only from Georgia but also from Russia," wrote Lilit Gevorgyan, Russia/CIS country analyst at IHS Global Insight on November 14, after the first round of the election.

Aside from their stance on relations with Russia, both Dzhioyeva and Bibilov campaigned on tough anti-corruption platforms, promising to tackle one of the biggest problems that the small republic is facing.

RIA Novosti reports that South Ossetia was "tense" on election day. Bibilov, the republic's minister of emergency situations, said this morning that he believes the results published by the CEC are inaccurate. "We disagree with today's decision from the CEC, and we have data to back this up. Pressure has been put on members of the CEC. Moreover, funds have been transferred to influence their decisions," Bibilov told journalists, though added that he promised to accept whatever decision the Supreme Court comes to.

South Ossetia declared its independence from Georgia in 1990, soon before the collapse of the Soviet Union. In August 2008, a series of incidents on the border between Georgia and South Ossetia were the trigger for the five-day war between Georgia and Russia. 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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