Pro-Russian party wins election in South Ossetia

By bne IntelliNews June 9, 2014

Naubet Bisenov in Almaty -

A party calling for unification with Russia has claimed victory in the June 8 parliamentary election in Georgia’s breakaway South Ossetia republic. Georgia has condemned the vote as "illegitimate", while the EU has said it will not recognise its result.

The pro-Russian United Ossetia party won 43.19% of the vote, taking 20 seats in the parliament. The runner-up was the Unity of People which took 13.24% (six seats). Two other parties, the People's Party and the Nykhas party, also crossed the 7% threshold set to gain seats in the parliament, the republic’s Central Electoral Commission said on its website on June 9.

After claiming victory, the United Ossetia party said it would fulfil its election promises, including a referendum on unification with Russia. The party will start to meet "the main concerns of voters which are the sooner return of South Ossetia to the Russian Federation", the party's leader Anatoliy Bibilov told the Itar-Tass news agency on June 9. "We are going to start working on this immediately," he said.

South Ossetia broke away from Georgia in the 1990s, and its independence was recognised by Russia following the brief war between Georgia and Russia over the republic in 2008. After Moscow's annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea in April, South Ossetian politicians also called for entry to the Russian Federation, which would re-unite the region with North Ossetia on the other side of the Georgia-Russia border. On June 2 the region's President Leonid Tibilov suggested that a new parliament would pass a motion requesting Moscow to incorporate the region.

"We in South Ossetia were inspired by the Russian leadership's decision to reunite Crimea with Russia," Tibilov told an interview with the news website. He added that the "separated" people of South Ossetia should be reunited with their cousins in North Ossetia. "This historical moment should come. We are on this path and the idea of joining Russia has good prospects."

Russia has not yet made any clear indication of its intentions towards breakaway regions in the former Soviet Union like South Ossetia and Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria, which have become more vocal in their desire to become part of Russia after the annexation of Crimea. MPs in Transnistria (also known as Transdniestria) voted on April 16 to appeal to Moscow for official recognition as a sovereign state, followed by entry to the Russian Federation.

Despite recognition from Russia and a handful of other countries, South Ossetia has never gained widespread international recognition. The Georgian government says the parliamentary election did not meet the norms of international law and was not legitimate. "In the past period both occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia have expelled hundreds and thousands of our citizens. Based on this, ethnic cleansing is being legitimised through such so-called elections which don't meet norms of international law. This election ... by no means can be regarded as legitimate," First Deputy Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani said on June 9.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton also condemned the election and said the EU will not recognise its results. "The European Union supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia, as recognised by international law. In view of the reports about the elections in the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia on 8 June, we recall that the European Union does not recognise the constitutional and legal framework within which these elections have taken place," she said in a statement on June 8.


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