As anticipated, none of the four candidates in the March 25 repeat election for de facto president of Georgia's unrecognized region of South Ossetia polled the 50 percent plus one vote required for a clear first-round win
. A runoff has accordingly been scheduled for April 8
between opposition-backed candidate Leonid Tibilov, who polled 42.48 percent of the vote, and human rights ombudsman David Sanakoyev, who finished second with 24.58 percent.
The original election for a successor to Eduard Kokoity, who was barred by the constitution from seeking a third consecutive presidential term, degenerated into a major political standoff after the republic's Supreme Court annulled the second-round victory on November 27 of opposition candidate Alla Dzhioyeva.
Following talks mediated by senior Russian officials, Dzhioyeva acknowledged the legality of the annulment in December, but then revoked that acknowledgement and scheduled her inauguration as legally elected president for February 10. Those plans were thwarted, however, by security personnel who forced their way into Dzhioyeva's headquarters and forcibly took her into custody. She was kept under armed guard in a Tskhinvali clinic until the day before the repeat election
All four candidates have formally accepted the official results of the March 25 vote, even de facto South Ossetian Ambassador to the Russian Federation Dmitry Medoyev, who finished third with 23.79 percent of the vote -- just 142 votes fewer than Sanakoyev. In contrast to the first round of voting last November, this time there were no allegations of serious malpractice, although Sanakoyev noted various minor violations
. Voter turnout was even higher, at 70.28 percent, than during the first round of voting on November 13 (67.05 percent).
Both Sanakoyev and Tibilov are seemingly confident of winning in the second round
. Sanakoyev has expressed the hope that Medoyev and Kochiyev will back him in the second round
: he stressed Medoyev's potential role in working to secure broader international recognition for South Ossetia, which is acknowledged as an independent state only by Russia and a handful of other countries.
But neither of the two defeated candidates has yet thrown his weight behind one or other of the participants in the runoff. Former South Ossetian parliament Chairman Stanislav Kochiyev, who garnered only 5.26 percent of the vote, said on March 26 the Communist Party of South Ossetia, which he heads, will decide at a plenum later this week whom it will support
. It remains unclear whether Dzhioyeva, who continues to argue the repeat ballot is unconstitutional, will back Tibilov.
Tibilov has stressed that in the event of his election, his priority will be promoting rapprochement with Russia.
Whichever candidate is finally elected, he will no longer have to contend with the pernicious and obstructive tactics of the Kokoity clan, which for the past three months has systematically sought to undermine acting President Vadim Brovtsev. On March 14, the South Ossetian Security Council made public an extremely negative assessment of the work
of the local Prosecutor-General's Office. Brovtsev immediately submitted to the parliament, which is dominated by Kokoity's cronies and supporters, his dismissal of Prosecutor-General Taymuraz Khugayev
, a close relative of Kokoity's by marriage.
The parliament had voted in December against Khugayev's dismissal
and refused in February even to put the issue to a vote
. But deputies finally endorsed Khugayev's removal
from his post on March 21.
That capitulation by the Kokoity camp may be an additional reason why neighboring Republic of North Ossetia head Taymuraz Mamsurov, whom Russian President Dmitry Medvedev named last week as his special representative for South Ossetia, described the March 25 vote as heralding a qualitative change
in South Ossetian politics.