Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to sign the new Treaty on Union Relations and Integration between the Russian Federation and Georgia's breakaway Republic of South Ossetia on March 18 during a visit to Moscow by the region's de facto president, Leonid Tibilov, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced on March 12. The daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta had reported that the signing of the treaty had been postponed indefinitely, without citing the rationale for doing so.
On March 13, 19 of the 20 South Ossetian parliamentary deputies from the Yedinaya Osetiya (One Ossetia) party headed by parliament speaker Anatoly Bibilov passed a vote of no confidence in de facto Foreign Minister David Sanakoyev. Ten days earlier, Bibilov had criticized Sanakoyev for foreign policy "blunders" and for having made public in January a revised draft of the treaty.
Sanakoyev rejected that criticism as "a campaign launched by the parliament majority against those who disagree with it." He and Bibilov differ over the extent to which South Ossetia's state bodies, and the polity as a whole, should be subsumed into the Russian Federation. Bibilov called in January 2014 for a referendum on South Ossetia's integration into the Russian Federation to be held concurrently with the parliamentary elections in June 2014. Sanakoyev in contrast adduced the referendum held in November 2006, in which 99 percent of the region's voters expressed support for its self-declared independent status and for efforts aimed at securing international recognition of that status. Russia formally recognized South Ossetia as an independent state in late August 2008.
The parliamentary debate that preceded the March 13 vote of no confidence in Sanakoyev was reportedly stormy, with at least one speaker accusing him of having "betrayed" South Ossetia. Igor Kochiyev, who heads the parliamentary committee on foreign relations, countered that in that case, it is for the prosecutor's office, rather than the parliament, to evaluate Sanakoyev's actions. Kochiyev branded the parliament's approach "unconstructive," protesting that "one man should not be blamed for everything."
Amiran Dyakonov of the former ruling Unity Party argued that at the very least, the legislature should form a commission to evaluate Sanakoyev's imputed errors of judgment prior to a no-confidence vote.
Given that the South Ossetian constitution stipulates that only a simple majority is required for a no-confidence vote, Bibilov's faction succeeded in passing it. Six deputies from the Unity and People's parties voted against, while the four deputies from Nykhas left the chamber before the vote, as did Kochiyev.
De facto President Tibilov, who Sanakoyev admits was annoyed by his leaking the revised text of the treaty, has not yet commented publicly or taken action on the parliament vote. If he declines to dismiss Sanakoyev, the parliament may call a second no-confidence vote within two months. If Bibilov's faction again votes no confidence in Sanakoyev, Tibilov has no choice but to dismiss him.
Meanwhile, a new dispute appears imminent between parliamentary deputy speaker Dmitry Tasoyev and Vyacheslav Gobozov, chairman of the State Committee for Information and the Press and of the extraparliamentary socialist party Fydybasta. Gobozov expressed his "complete amazement" at Tasoyev's insistence during the parliamentary debate that journalists quote all his pronouncements in full and verbatim, "without omitting a single comma." Gobozov said that demand constitutes pressure on the media. At the same time, he stressed that the parliamentary majority "has the right to evaluate the actions of any member of the government, independent of whether the accusations against him refer to his professional duties."
-- Liz Fuller