The run-up to the repeat election on March 24 for a new de facto president of Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia bears an uncanny resemblance to last November's election campaign. It too is shaping up to be a three-way struggle between the ruling authorities, the opposition, and Moscow, combining the same elements of farce and soap opera.
As of February 9, the Central Election Commission (TsIK) had accepted registration applications
on behalf of 19 candidates, one of whom subsequently failed the mandatory Ossetian language test. Seventeen candidates registered for the November election, of whom six subsequently withdrew.
The 18 remaining hopefuls
include parliamentarian Sergei Zasseyev, representing the opposition; former KGB head Leonid Tibilov
; and Dmitry Medoyev, South Ossetia's diplomatic representative in Moscow. Medoyev is widely regarded as enjoying the backing of the Russian leadership.
South Ossetian Emergency Situations Minister Anatoly Bibilov, whom Russia backed last fall, announced earlier this week that he would not run again, and he appealed to the other candidates in the November ballot to follow his example.
Meanwhile, Alla Dzhioyeva, the opposition candidate whose victory in last November's run-off was annulled by the republic's Supreme Court, has been to all intents and purposes sidelined. Her most influential supporters have distanced themselves from her repeated desperate efforts to persuade acting President Vadim Brovtsev to cede power and thus make possible her inauguration
, scheduled for February 10.
As deputy parliament speaker and presidential candidate Yury Dzitstsoity
explained to RFE/RL earlier this week, the inauguration cannot legally take place unless/until the Supreme Court rescinds its decision to annul the results of the November 27 run-off, and the parliament similarly annuls its decree on holding the repeat election. One of Dzhioyeva's election campaign staff, Elina Margoyeva, nonetheless assured Regnum
that the inauguration ceremony will go ahead as planned.
The Communist Party of South Ossetia, whose chairman, former parliament speaker Stanislav Kochiyev, is one of the presidential hopefuls, has appealed to Dzhioyeva not to risk destabilizing the political situation by proceeding with her inauguration. He urged her to register instead as a candidate for the March 25 ballot
. To date she has refused to do so, arguing that she is already the republic's legitimately elected president.
Speaking on February 9 at a rally staged by the authorities in support of the March 25 elections
, former Health Minister Dzhemal Dzhigkayev similarly called on Dzhioyeva not to go ahead with her planned inauguration, but to support those registered candidates in the March election who had backed her presidential bid in November.
Dzhigkayev placed last of the 11 candidates in the November ballot, and backed Dzhioyeva in the run-off.
The South Ossetian Interior Ministry issued a statement
on February 8 warning citizens not to participate in "mass public gatherings" for which the Tskhinvali municipal authorities have not granted permission. But Dzitstsoity expressed confidence that even if Dzhioyeva does stage her own inauguration, the authorities will not resort to brute force to prevent her.