The signing of the framework Treaty on Union Relations and Integration between the Russian Federation and Georgia’s breakaway Republic of South Ossetia, to which Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his formal approval last week, has been postponed indefinitely, according to the daily “Nezavisimaya gazeta.” No reason for the postponement was given.
Meanwhile, the South Ossetian parliament is planning a vote of no confidence in de facto Foreign Minister David Sanakoyev for various “blunders,” including having leaked the amended text of the treaty to the press two months ago.
As was the case in Abkhazia, the draft treaty triggered heated disagreements within the South Ossetian leadership over the optimum degree of rapprochement and cooperation between the two polities. Parliament speaker Anatoly Bibilov, whose Yedinaya Osetiya (One Ossetia) party controls 20 seats in the 34 parliament elected in June 2014, advocated a far closer degree of “integration” with Russia than de facto President Leonid Tibilov and other political parties were apparently prepared to condone. In January 2014, Bibilov had called for a referendum on South Ossetia’s incorporation into the Russian Federation to be held concurrently with the parliamentary ballot.
The fourth and final version of the treaty provides for closer cooperation between the armed forces and security structures of the two polities but does not stipulate as a long-term goal the referendum on South Ossetia’s incorporation into the Russian Federation that Bibilov demanded, and that featured in the initial draft.
It was Bibilov who last week first threatened to bring a vote of no confidence in Sanakoyev. His stated rationale for doing so was that South Ossetia’s ambassadors to Nicaragua and Venezuela, which recognized South Ossetia as an independent state in September 2008 and September 2009 respectively, have still not formally presented their credentials. (In fact the ambassador to Nicaragua did so in September 2011.
In addition, Bibilov claimed that no steps have been taken to establish formal diplomatic relations with the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples’ Republics in accordance with Tibilov’s pledge to do so.
Sanakoyev for his part dismissed those criticisms as “a campaign launched by the parliament majority against those who disagree with it.” He pointed out that rather than threaten a vote of no confidence, the majority parliament faction could have summoned him to account for those imputed failings. Sanakoyev’s New Ossetia party failed to surmount the 5 percent barrier for gaining parliament representation.
Aleksandr Pliyev, leader of the People’s Party that holds four parliament mandates, said he sees no valid reason for insisting on a vote of no confidence in Sanakoyev, and warned that such a vote could trigger “a crisis” within the leadership and destabilize the situation. The People’s Party is one of eight (not including Sanakoyev’s New Ossetia) that, together with 16 other political groups, aligned in January in a Coordinating Council of Political Forces.
An apparent attempt by Tibilov to rein in Bibilov had no effect. Meeting on March 4 with the parliament speaker and committee heads, Tibilov stressed the need for effective coordination between all branches of power. He also announced, possibly with the aim of mollifying Bibilov, that new premises had been allocated for the legislature in one wing of the government building.
Bibilov for his part assured the president that while the parliament “has its own opinion with regard to many issues,” it is not in open opposition to the executive branch.
On March 11, Sanakoyev appeared before the parliament presidium to present a report on the work of his ministry in 2014, stressing that priority had been given to the strengthening of South Ossetia’s “strategic partnership” with Russia.)
Sanakoyev further defended his decision at the height of the controversy over the draft treaty to make public the text under discussion. He argued that society had a right to know the content of the draft.
-- Liz Fuller