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New South Ossetian Leader Hits The Ground Running

Leonid Tibilov, the new de facto president of South Ossetia, has a Herculean task on his hands.
Leonid Tibilov, the new de facto president of South Ossetia, has a Herculean task on his hands.
It is still less than two weeks since Leonid Tibilov was sworn in as de facto president of Georgia’s breakaway Republic of South Ossetia. But he has already set about implementing his most important pre-election promises with regard to raising living standards, cracking down on corruption, and promoting reconciliation in a society polarized and traumatized by two fiercely contested presidential election campaigns.

Tibilov has dismissed key figures loyal to his unpopular and compromised predecessor, Eduard Kokoity, and ordered parliament to carry out a thorough investigation over the next two months into the previous regime's suspected large-scale embezzlement of millions of rubles provided by the Russian Federation.

This money had been intended for the reconstruction of infrastructure and housing destroyed during the August 2008 war with Georgia, which was the catalyst for South Ossetia’s formal recognition by Moscow as an independent state.

In an interview last week with the official daily “Yuzhnyaya Ossetiya,” Tibilov said he wants the population to see tangible progress in the implementation of his election promises within six months at the very least.

Since Tibilov's election, parliament has already adopted a new law on housing policy intended primarily to benefit those families whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged during the hostilities in 2008.

Tibilov has also ordered government and municipal councils to take urgent measures to end the chronic problems with water supplies in Tskhinvali, the breakaway republic's capital.

Tibilov told the daily he will reduce the bloated government bureaucracy and ask parliament to set in motion constitutional amendments to make possible the adoption of a new election law that would replace the current majoritarian system with a proportional one.

Promoting National Unity

Other urgent priorities that he singled out included promoting national unity and eradicating the concept of "clans" in competition for political and economic influence.

Tibilov began his renewal of the republic’s leadership by naming Rostislav Khugayev as acting prime minister to succeed the Russian Vadim Brovtsev.

Khugayev, 61, has for many years headed a private company based in Samara. Consequently, he is presumably not affiliated with any of the republic’s rival political and economic interest groups.

Tbililov appointed former de facto foreign minister Boris Chochiyev to head the presidential administration.

For the past three years, Chochiyev has led the republic’s delegation to the internationally-mediated Geneva talks between Georgia, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Russia on resolving the security and human rights issues resulting from the 2008 war.

As prosecutor-general, Tibilov selected Merab Chigoyev, whom one observer characterized as "an apparatchik to the marrow of his bones…a man the president can rely on."

Chigoyev has served as prosecutor-general twice before; from 1996 to 1998 and from 2000 to 2002. He is also a former prime minister (1998-2000) and justice minister (2004-2008).

Chigoyev was one of eight Communist Party of South Ossetia candidates elected to parliament in 2009. He succeeded in registering for the presidential election last November, but withdrew before polling day in favor of the Kremlin’s candidate, South Ossetian Minister for Emergency Situations Anatoly Bibilov.

Generation Gap?

When it became clear that Bibilov had lost the second-round runoff to opposition candidate Alla Dzhioyeva, the South Ossetian Supreme Court annulled the vote and scheduled a repeat ballot for March.

Dzhioyeva and her supporters originally protested the decision but eventually ended their opposition to the new election won by Tibilov.

Tibilov has also replaced the heads of two of the republic’s four districts and sacked Security Council Secretary Boris Attoyev.

Tibilov’s moves so far testify to a single-minded determination to clean out the Augean stables bequeathed to him by Kokoity, as well as his resolve to form a cabinet that would enjoy broad public trust, make government transparent and effective, enforce the rule of law, and restore people’s confidence in the republic’s leadership.

Nonetheless, in selecting men of his own generation for leading positions (he himself is 60 years of age), Tibilov may alienate the 46 percent of voters who placed their hopes for a better future in his rival in the April 8 runoff -- former human rights ombudsman David Sanakoyev, 35.

Dina Alborova, who has just registered a new political party called For Civic Unity, made the point that "things are so bad in every respect that it is impossible to start tackling one problem without encroaching on another."

Whether Tibilov will succeed in putting together a cabinet whose members are prepared to work selflessly as a team to resolve the multiple problems South Ossetia faces remains to be seen.

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.


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