Kremlin’s man loses rebel South Ossetia polls
A female candidate initially given little hope of victory was yesterday leading leadership elections in the rebel Georgian region of South Ossetia against the frontrunning pro-Kremlin figure.
In a major surprise, ex-education minister Alla Dzhioyeva polled 56.7 percent of the run-off against the pre-election favorite Anatoly Bibilov who won 40 percent, the central election commission said, quoting partial results. Amid growing tensions over the vote, the supreme court of the little-recognized statelet earlier said results could not be published as Bibilov’s party had alleged violations and it must investigate the claims. Bibilov had the support of Russia’s dominant pro-Kremlin party. But, both have called for close ties with Russia, which recognized South Ossetia as an independent state after the brief 2008 Russian-Georgian war and still has troops in the region.
Despite the ruling, the central election commission still went ahead and announced the latest results -- based on 74 out of 85 polling stations -- that showed Dzhioyeva was heading for victory. The official local news agency quoted the head of the election commission as saying it had not been officially notified of the supreme court decision and had only heard about it on television. Whoever wins in the end will not enjoy wide recognition as the “president” of South Ossetia, since the region is recognized as independent only by Russia and a handful of far-flung states after Moscow’s 2008 war with Tbilisi. The U.S., the EU and the rest of the world consider the provinces part of Georgia. The size of the electorate in tiny South Ossetia is itself controversial. While the rebel authorities say its total population is around 70,000, Georgian officials argue that the figure is no more than 15,000 due to migration.