Tskhinvali -- Three years after a brief but intense war between Russia and Georgia over the contested territory South Ossetia, tensions are rising in the small Russian-backed Caucasian Republic after last Sunday’s election results were annulled by the Supreme Court.
The opposition candidate Alla Dzhioyeva appeared to have won, garnering 56% of the vote compared to the 40% by her opponent, Kremlin-sponsored Anatoly Bibilov. But the Supreme Court annulled the election results Tuesday, citing voting irregularities, and parliament set a new election for March 2012, barring Dzhioyeva from participating.
But Dzhioyeva, 62, is not going to go without a fight. Early Wednesday morning, she announced that she would would assume the presidency and begin forming a new cabinet in Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital. “We have always acted within the framework of the constitution and have never strayed from legal grounds,” Dzhioyeva announced in an interview with Kommersant. “I am going to form a cabinet of 10 people to govern the Republic of South Ossetia.”
The main responsibility of the cabinet is to control the executive branch of the government until Dzhioyeva’s inauguration. She also declared that she would follow the will of the South Ossetian voters, and said that she holds current South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity, also a Kremlin darling, responsible for the current tension.
The security forces in the small republic -- which is recognized as an independent state by Russia but considered part of Georgia by most of the international community -- have been on full alert since Tuesday’s Supreme Court announcement. The breakaway republic provoked a month-long war between Russia and Georgia in 2008, during which time most of the Georgians in the region, previously some 30 percent of the population, fled.
Since then, Kokoity has made conflicting remarks about South Ossetia’s plans for the future, sometimes saying the region would become an independent state, other times that it would become part of Russia. Georgia still insists that either option violates its territorial integrity.
"Written in black and white"
When asked why she decided to fight the election annulment, Dzhioyeva was not short on answers. “If there had been any kind of infractions at the polls, then it should have been announced on election day,” she said. “I have in my hand 85 statements from the poll captains, and the election results are written clearly in black and white. These documents were signed by representatives of the electoral commission as well as observers from my opponent’s campaign and from my campaign.”
Dzhioyeva said that both international experts and the internal electoral commission have said that there was nothing to indicate irregularities in the elections. She added that she doubted all along that Kokoity would leave power “in a civilized manner.”
In spite of the Kremlin’s known support for her opponent, she plans to appeal to the Russian government, which supplies a large amount of aid to the area, to pressure Kokoity to respect the election results. If that fails, Dzhioyeva says she would reach out to the larger international community.
Although her opponent, Anatoly Bibilov, has made comments suggesting he might resort to force if he didn’t prevail at the polls, Dzhioyeva says she’s not worried about a military confrontation. The Kremlin may have supported her opponent, but she thinks that Russia’s interests would not be served by renewed violence in South Ossetia.
Read the interview with Alla Dzhioyeva in Russian
Photo - wikipedia