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South Ossetian Opposition Suffers Setbacks

South Ossetian presidential candidate Alla Dzhioyeva has called on Russia to help resolve a simmering standoff between her camp and outgoing President Eduard Kokoity.
As this blog previously predicted, the parliament of Georgia's breakaway Republic of South Ossetia has failed to endorse two key provisions of the agreement signed on December 9 between the republic's then de facto president, Eduard Kokoity, and Alla Dzhioyeva, the opposition candidate whose victory in the runoff presidential ballot on November 27 was subsequently annulled by the republic's Supreme Court.

Thousands of Dzhioyeva's supporters camped out for 10 days in sub-zero temperatures on the central square in Tskhinvali, the republic's capital, to protest that Supreme Court ruling.

After 10 days of talks between the two camps mediated by senior Kremlin administration official Sergei Vinokurov, Dzhioyeva and Kokoity signed an agreement under which Dzhioyeva undertook to order her supporters to disperse and formally accepted the Supreme Court's decision to schedule a repeat presidential ballot on March 25, 2012.

Parliamentary Defiance

Kokoity for his part agreed to step down as de facto president, his second term having expired two days earlier, and to dismiss Prosecutor-General Taymuraz Khugayev, Khugayev's deputy Eldar Kokoyev, and Supreme Court Chairman Atsamaz Bichenov.

Kokoity did duly step down. But the parliament failed to endorse the dismissal of Khugayev and Bichenov, although the vote (which was secret, not open) was not unanimous in either case.

Of the 31 deputies present at the session on December 14, 15 voted for Khugayev's dismissal and 15 against, with one spoiled ballot paper; only eight voted for Bichenov's dismissal and 22 against, again with one invalid ballot.

It cannot of course be ruled out that those deputies who voted to sabotage the agreement did so at Kokoity's behest, the objective being to spur the Dzhioyeva camp to violent protests that could serve as a pretext for barring her from next year's repeat election.

Fueling Tensions

Communist Party leader Stanislav Kochiyev, whom Kokoity dismissed as parliament speaker two months ago, deplored the vote as heralding the collapse of the "tenuous agreement" between the two rival camps.

Kochiyev found it difficult to predict whether Dzhioyeva's supporters would resume their protest, or how the deadlock created by the parliament's apparent defiance of the outgoing president could be resolved.

Commenting on the December 14 parliament vote, Dzhioyeva thanked those deputies who voted to endorse the agreement. She said the deputies who declined to do so "are not interested in stability, they want to fuel tensions."

Dzhioyeva also said that Russia, as the guarantor of the agreement, should take responsibility for the failure to implement it.

Asked late on December 13 how she would react if the parliament failed to endorse the two dismissals, Dzhioyeva had said this would constitute a violation of the written agreement and "a challenge to Mr. Vinokurov and all those who stand behind him," meaning the Russian leadership.

In a second blow to Dzhioyeva, acting President and former Prime Minister Vadim Brovtsev has rejected her proposal that her election campaign manager Lieutenant-General Anatoly Barankevich -- a former South Ossetian defense minister and National Security Council chairman who coordinated the defense of Tskhinvali during the August 2008 war -- be named as deputy prime minister.

Arson Attack

Brovtsev's rationale, according to Dzhioyeva, was that there is currently no such vacant position. Dzhioyeva added that they will revisit that issue in a further round of talks next week.

At the same time, after having what he described as "enjoyable" talks" on December 14 with Dzhioyeva and Barankevich, Brovtsev said that the latter put forward "interesting and constructive proposals."

Brovtsev's caution may, however, have been dictated by the desire to avoid a feud between Barankevich and Merab Pukhayev, the Interior Ministry Special Forces commander whom Kokoity named last week as first deputy prime minister, and not intended as a snub to the Dzhioyeva camp.

Certainly it would be logical for Brovtsev, as a representative of the Russian leadership, to conclude a tactical alliance with the opposition in the run-up to the March 25 repeat ballot in order to prevent an election victory by Kokoity's chosen candidate.

Meanwhile, earlier on December 13, unknown perpetrators set fire to Barankevich's car (a Russian-manufactured Lada-Niva, not an expensive foreign import) outside his home, destroying the engine.

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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