Election officials in Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia say a political party that is calling for a referendum on unification with Russia is winning parliamentary elections held on June 8.
With around one-third of the votes counted, the pro-Russian party Yedinaya Osetiya -- or United Ossetia -- had about 44 percent of the vote.
Nine parties are competing for the 34 parliamentary seats in South Ossetia’s capital, Tskhinvali.
Interfax reports at least two other parties are set to clear the 7-percent hurdle needed to enter the parliament.
Voter turnout of just 51 percent was seen as low for a region where about 90 percent of the electorate traditionally goes to the polls to cast ballots.
Makharbek Khadartsev, head of a Russian State Duma monitoring team, blamed the low voter turnout on what he said is the recent migration of many South Ossetian voters to Russia.
“Many people have moved to Russia, and most of them simply could not participate in the elections," Khadartsev said.
He also said those who did vote “could enjoy good organization in the atmosphere, where any falsifying was impossible.”
Georgia, which doesn't recognize South Ossetia's 1992 declaration of independence, has called the elections illegitimate.
Russia and a handful of other countries recognized South Ossetia's independence after Russia’s brief war with Georgia in 2008.
Russian has kept military bases in South Ossetia and Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia since the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia.
Based on reporting by dpa, ITAR-TASS, Interfax