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South Ossetian Opposition Leader Bewails 'Lost Opportunity'

Teziyev said that President Eduard Kokoity has established an authoritarian regime and driven his opponents away.

Teziyev said that President Eduard Kokoity has established an authoritarian regime and driven his opponents away.

Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on May 12, Oleg Teziyev, who served in the early 1990s as prime minister of the then-unrecognized breakaway republic of South Ossetia, accused the republic's current president, Eduard Kokoity, of squandering the opportunity to build a truly independent republic after Russia formally recognized South Ossetia as an independent state.

Teziyev predicted that if a referendum were held now, the overwhelming majority of the republic's population would opt for unification with Russia.

Teziyev, who currently heads a public organization named Civic Initiative, said that when the Russian-Georgian war over South Ossetia ended last August, "we all believed that a new and happy life was opening up," but that within a month those hopes evaporated as Kokoity extended his authority over the judiciary, the prosecutor's office, and the government.

He accused Kokoity of establishing an authoritarian regime and of systematically forcing his political opponents to leave the republic. He said the current leadership is incompetent, especially in economic affairs, but that Kokoity rejected an economic development program drafted by the opposition.

Teziyev said that South Ossetia's opposition parties want Russia's Central Election Commission to assess the ongoing campaign for the May 31 parliamentary elections and demand that they be postponed for at least three months. He claimed that the authorities have artificially inflated the number of registered voters: the official figure is 62,000, but the real figure is only 17,000.

Teziyev argued that Russian and international observers should monitor the vote. We would have invited European observers, he said, but for the fact that the European Union does not recognize South Ossetia as an independent state.

In mid-April, South Ossetia's Election Commission refused to register the opposition People's Party headed by Roland Kelekhsayev to participate in the election, but it did register a second party of the same name established days earlier by persons said to be subservient to Kokoity. It also registered only nine of the 10 candidates on the list of the socialist Fydybasta (Fatherland) party, rejecting party Chairman Vyacheslav Gobozov, who headed it.

Teziyev's criticism echoes comments made at a roundtable discussion on May 6 by Gennady Kokoyev, who is a lecturer at South Ossetia's state university and an election candidate for the pro-Kokoity Unity party. Kokoyev said he considers the exclusion from the election of all opposition parties a violation of democratic norms. He argued that now that Russia has recognized South Ossetia as independent, "there is no point in not being honest with ourselves and with Russia."

Unity's popularity rating is only 17 percent, according to the website of the South Ossetian Ministry of the Press and Mass Media as cited on May 13 by the Russian daily "Vremya novostei." The Communist Party enjoys 28 percent support, followed by Fydybasta with 18 percent; 24 percent of those questioned said they will vote "against all."

Asked about the election campaign at a press conference on April 9, the transcript of which was released only three weeks later, President Kokoity said he has "a vested interest in South Ossetia becoming a normal civil society, with a normal political system and a functioning party system." But, he added, this is not possible at the present stage, because except for Unity and the Communist Party, the other registered political parties "exist only on paper."

In a seeming contradiction, he predicted that the electorate will act wisely and rebuff any attempt by "political blackmailers and mutants" to enlist their support.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.