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South Ossetia: odd man out or how to make political analysts interested

Alexander Skakov

Over the last four-five years, many people have forgotten South Ossetia, a republic recognized as independent by Russia on Aug 26, 2008. In 2008, that republic suffered a war declared by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, in the autumn of 2011 and the spring of 2012, it faced scandalous presidential elections, but afterwards things calmed down and experts forgot South Ossetia – especially as there are lots of other much hotter spots in the South Caucasus.

Initially, experts showed no interest in the forthcoming presidential election in South Ossetia. South Ossetia is a small country, where people know each other and know the value of their politicians and their promises. The key runners - incumbent President Leonid Tibilov and Speaker of the Parliament Anatoly Bibilov – are well known to both the South Ossetians and the Kremlin and their victories will change nothing in the country. In contrast, former President Eduard Kokoity’s wish to run for presidency was a big surprise for both the runners and the audience.

Here Kokoity may face an obstacle – the residence requirement. Everybody knows that over the last five years, he has spent very little time in South Ossetia, which means that the Central Electoral Commission may deny him registration. Kokoity may appeal to the Supreme Court, but here too he has almost no chances.

Kokoity is certainly aware of this and this is why his supporters have urged the authorities to let the people choose. They mean cancelling the constitutional amendment and the law concerning the residency requirement. It was Kokoity who imposed the requirement and today it is too late for him to change the situation. One of his supporters, the People’s Party, who now wants the law to be annulled, was one of its advocates under Kokoity. “They should have objected when the amendment was just introduced,” former speaker of the parliament Stanislav Kochiyev said. “But instead, one of their leaders, Amiran Dyakonov, said that since there was such a requirement, all candidates had to comply with it. And now it is too late as changes to an election-related law can be made no later than half a year before the start of the electoral campaign,” Kochiyev said.

And now there is no use crying over spilt milk. Obviously, voters need some third force but it should be a group of young clean politicians and talented governors. But you can’t get such people out of the blue, you should find and train them and you need time for this. So, let’s hope that by the next election, we will see such people in the race. Perhaps, by that time, the residency requirement will also be lifted.

Today, there are people who suggest parliamentary rule in South Ossetia. This may have sense, but the South Ossetians should first see how their current mixed parliamentary election systems will work.

The high activity of former President Kokoity and his team has added some intrigue to the race. Kokoity has spurred his key rivals and has made them reconsider their programs and promises. If the ruling regime continues ignoring the aspirations and the complaints of its people, it may lose the race to any alternative force.

Kokoity’s decision has attracted the attention of Russian political experts and this is good - the view of a well-wishing concerned observer will not hurt South Ossetia. The election will be followed by daily life and the more attention South Ossetia manages to attract towards its politics and economy the better.

We hope that the election campaign will be peaceful and the growing passions will not burst into demonstrations. South Ossetia faced enough conflicts in 2011-2012 and needs stability rather than new shocks. The Kremlin’s position here is clear: the main thing is that the constitution not be violated. As regards the winner, this is the choice of the South Ossetian voters.

Alexander Skakov, specially for EADaily

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