TBILISI, DFWatch – The Tskhinvali region is heading for a run-off between the two main contenders in the presidential election, after none of them got above the 50 per cent threshold to win in the first round.
According to Agence France-Presse, results from 78 out of 86 polling stations showed that alleged Kremlin-favorite Anatoly Bibilov fell slightly behind contender Alla Dzhioyeva, the sole female in the race, who is seen by many as an oppositional figure. According to AFP, Bibilov won 25.44 percent of the votes and Dzhioyeva 25.37 percent.
Tskhinvali residents also voted in a referendum about declaring Russian the official language.
According to Russian media, there was a calm atmosphere during election day. However, the election campaign was strained, and an opponent of Bibilov, Dzambulat Tedeev, was prohibited from registering his candidacy.
Tedeev is head coach of Russia’s independent wrestling team and his supporters aren’t only from the sport world. Mamuka Areshidze, legal expert on Caucasus issues claims that Tedeev has a family surname which is very common in the Tskhinvali region, something which has helped him gather supporters, because of the importance of family history to Caucasian people. Tedeev has house in Ossetia, and his father still lives there.
A large part of South Ossetian representatives had gathered around Tedeev, especially from Tskhinvali, because locals considered that Tedeev, unlike the other candidates, would be able to lead Tskhinvali out of the crisis and confront encumbent leader Eduard Kokoity.
South Ossetian civil society doesn’t have such famous representative in Russia. Along with being a coach Tedeev is a successful member of the ‘Business-sports team’, which is headed by Mikheil Mamiashvili, chairman of the Russian wrestling federation. It is well known that Mamiashvili is closer to Russian prime minister Vladimer Putin, and Tedeev is associated with this team. Despite this, Eduard Kokoiti, the current South Ossetian president, confronts Tedeev.
According to Mamuka Areshidze, there is information that Kokoiti had been brought into government by Tedeev and his brothers. But soon after attaining power, Kokoiti confronted them. Due to this information, Ibragim Tedeev, the middle brother, was killed with the support of Kokoiti.
Areshidze’s sources ascribe Tedeev not being allowed to register for the elections to the fact that he was confronting Kokoiti. But the his supporters intervened in Tskhinvali’s Central Elections Commission (CEC). Then Kokoiti closed the border with Russia and kept it open only to Russian military and construction workers at a time when numerous wrestlers came from Russia to support Tedeev. Kokoiti blocked Pazaev, world champion and deputy of the Russian Duma, from coming in from North Ossetia.
There was disagreement among Kokoiti supporters, out of concern that the situation would lead to bloodshed. At the same time there were indications that people in the Tskhinvali administration were starting to refuse to confront Tedeev. Almost twenty people signed a statement saying they would resign. But finally, Tedeev was refused to participate in the elections.
However, according to Russian media, Kokoiti himself had chosen two candidates in order to keep on to power: the so-called Prosecutor General Taimuraz Khagaev and his own brother Robert Kokoiti. They are married to two sisters. But Moscow chose Anatoli Babilov, its protégé and chairman of the so-called republic’s emergency situations ministry.
According to Russian newspaper Kommersant, Bibilov is supported by Russian Regional Ministry and law enforcement agencies, and there was formed an interagency agreement on the highest level before the election.
Anatoli Bibilov was born in Tskhinvali in 1970. He graduated from Riazani High Airborne Command School in 1992. There he had been participating in #76 landing division battalion peace operation in South Ossetia. He was Chief of the Defence Ministry special forces of South Ossetia in 1994-96. He was ivolved in business activities in Kiev during 1996-98. He served in the North Ossetian peace battalion in the Georgia-Ossetia conflict region from 1998 to 2000. Bibilov holds the title of Major General. He has been Emergency Situation Minister of South Ossetia since November 2008.
Anatoli Babilov does not hide the fact that he is the Kremlin favorite.
“Russia expressed its position on the arrival of Sergei Shoigu, Constantine Kosachov and Franc Klincebish, also with a meeting with Sergei Narishkin and me. Why cannot I like that Moscow supports me? They have a right to have interests in South Ossetia. These people arrived here in the name of ‘United Russia’ (Единая Россия) and I was presented by the Unity Party. There is an agreement between United Russia and Unity – they will support it’s almost member of the party,” he stated in an interview with gazeta.ru before the elections.
It is expected that he would fully implement the Kremlin’s interests. A quite acute problem in Tskhinvali region lately has been whether South Osetia should be united with Russia, thereby connecting South Ossetia with North Ossetia. This is something which has caused discontent among the population.
“We should develop the relations we have in any case and more integration is needed. There is loads of work to get closer to Russia. But it’s a lie, when my opponents claim that if I am be chosen we will be united with Russia tomorrow. Let it be two countries but one Ossetia. We should cancel restrictions on the borders,” Anatoli Babilov claims.
14 people had registered as presidential candidates: Alan Kochiev – teacher for kids-youth sports school of heavy athletics; Vladimir Keleskhsaev – so-called former deputy; Vadim Tskhovrebov – director of a bread factory; Dimitry Tasoev – leader of the abolished Social-Democratic party; Aivar Bestaev – head of Republic Hospital department; Ala Dzhioyeva – so-called former minister of education; Anatoli Bibilov – head of emergency situation ministry in South Ossetia; Alan Kotaev – first deputy of Tskhinvali’s so-called mayor; Giorgi Kabisov – chairman of the so-called information and communication state committee; Merab Chigoev – so-called parliament deputy of South Ossetia; Sergey Batiev – chief executive of the so-called court in South Ossetia; Jemal Jigkaev – head of the diagnostic department in so-called republican hospital; Soslan Tedet – senior of so-called ministry; Alan Pliev – so-called foreign ministry deputy; Eduard Gabaraev – so-called chairman of Ministry Of Defence Artillery ; Ogor Alborov – so-called Deputy Defense Minister; Inal Bazaev – so-called South Ossetia parliament deputy.
The day before the elections six of them withdrew their candidacy. Nearly 500 000 voters of Tskhinvali had to choose among eleven candidates.
Two candidates left the presidential race: the teacher for kids-youth sports school Alan Kochiev and chairman of the so-called Ministry Of Defence Artillery Eduard Gabaraev.
Sources in Ossetia say Alan Kachiev withdrew his candidacy in favour of Bibilov; and Eduard Gabaraev dropped out to back Giorgi Gabaraev.
The South Ossetian de-facto presidential elections will be considered valid if 50% of the voters participate in it, and initial data suggests turnout to be well above this and in the 60s.
According to Bela Plieva, CEC chair, there was a calm atmosphere during the election. But according to the news service Kavkaz Uzel, all the de-facto presidential candidates have reported irregularities including bribery cases, not allowing observers on the electoral districts and voting with fake IDs. But Russian news agencies report that the elections were held in highly democratic manner and with no violations.
The South Ossetian news agency RES reports quoting Alan Jusoev, chairman of Akhalgori de-facto administration, that the road from Tskhinvali to Akhalgori is closed for the elections, but it is possible to exit Akhalgori that way. This will be enforced until November 14.
86 electoral districts have been opened for these elections; including one in Moscow, one in North Ossetia and one in Abkhazia. According to Ossetian media, no voters turned up in the Krasnodar election district, something which is explained by bad weather. Also Sukhumi saw low voter turnout.
According to Ossetian sources, 80 observers and more than 50 foreign journalists were observing the election. Final results are to be published today.