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Analysis, book reviews and photography from Abkhazia and the wider Caucasus — updates when time permits

South Ossetia’s presidential election suprisingly competitive

On 13 November, South Ossetia held its fourth Presidential election since independence, and expectations were low, given the authoritarian tendencies of President Kokoity and the fact that many opposition candidates had been excluded unfairly or because they didn’t satisfy the harsh 10-year residency requirement. It was predicted by some that Kokoity — who couldn’t run for a third term — would want to ‘do a Putin’ — become Prime Minister, Parliament Speaker or party leader and continue to lead South Ossetia. Also, Moscow had a clear preferred candidate in the form of Emergency Affairs Minister Anatoli Bibilov, who through falsification might have taken a landslide victory (Kokoity himself was re-elected in 2006 with 98% of the votes).

However, the results are surprisingly hopeful. The election requires a second round, a rare thing in the Caucasus. What is more, the two front runners, Bibilov and former Education Minister Alla Dzhioyeva only scored 25% each, which is little even by word-wide standards. The election is also the first in the Caucasus with a female candidate who stands a serious chance of winning (Dzhioyeva). Of course, instead of hailing this achievement, Kokoity then vowed that no woman could become President of South Ossetia, this being the Caucasus…

The first round results and the fact that there is no reliable opinion polling in South Ossetia mean that the fight for the second round is wide open. It was widely perceived that Kokoity had supported his own candidates in the first round rather than Bibilov, so the latter could now enjoy the undivided support of South Ossetian authorities. In her turn, Dzhioyeva may be able to attract the support of other opposition candidates, whose first round results combine to more than 25%. A victory by Dzhioyeva would probably be the best result for South Ossetian society, and it might actually happen.

Filed under: Elections, South Ossetia, ,

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