"Anyone, but Bibilov" - South Ossetia elects a new president
Presidential elections in South Ossetia
The presidential elections in South Ossetia ended with the victory of the opposition candidate. In the second round, Alan Gagloev defeated the incumbent president Anatoly Bibilov. Experts believe that Gagloev’s victory is the result of public dissatisfaction with Bibilov’s rule and a protest vote. And the referendum announced by Bibilov on joining Russia can still take place.
South Ossetia voted for change: opposition candidate Alan Gagloev won against incumbent Anatoly Bibilov
Gagloev won 53.67% of the vote after processing more than 85% of the protocols, and incumbent President Anatoly Bibilov scored 41.3% of the vote.
The inauguration of the elected president will take place 10 days after the announcement of the final results of the vote.
Yesterday, after the preliminary results were announced, Bibilov admitted defeat and congratulated Gagloev on his victory, wishing him good luck.
“I really hope that everything will work out for him”, Bibilov said and thanked all the citizens of the republic for fulfilling their civic duty.
Alan Gagloev, in his anticipation, announcing his speech at the Theater Square in a crowd of centurions, lamented that Bibilov] admitted the choices.
«How to tell people a huge thank you for their support and trust. I will form a new command».
Why did Bibilov lose to Gagloev?
Meanwhile, experts are discussing the reasons for Bibilov’s defeat and Gagloev’s victory, who will have to form a new government and begin to implement the promised changes.
Alan Gagloev, 41, became the leader of the opposition Nykhas party in 2020. In politics, a hitherto unknown KGB officer of South Ossetia appeared in 2017 during the presidential election campaign. Then he won 11% of the vote.
Gagloev and his supporters – deputies of the opposition factions of the parliament – severely criticized the current head of state and accused him of a variety of crimes: from “surrendering territories to Georgians” to being responsible for the death of Inal Dzhabiev, suspected of attempting to assassinate Interior Minister, who died after interrogation.
However, as experts say, the opposition has not presented a viable election program and has not voiced a solution to specific problems.
Now that Gagloev is moving from opposition ranks to executive power and becoming head of state, he is expected to make quick and correct decisions that should not disappoint his supporters, political analyst and blogger Alan Mamiev believes:
“Bibilov managed to turn against himself many residents of the republic, and even ethnic Ossetians in North Ossetia. Scandals constantly shook the republic. This is the Dzhabiev case, and the Tsnelis case [tension caused by the establishment of a Georgian police post near the village of Tsnelis/i – JAMnews], problems with the import [of goods from Russia], and problems with cigarette smuggling. Plus, he did everything so that more or less resourceful candidates were not allowed to run in the elections, in particular, ex-Minister of Defense Gasseev, Vladimir Kelekhsaev, and David Sanakoev, but in the end, it turned out to be a protest vote”.
The population would have voted for anyone, as long as there was no Bibilov, Mamiev notes.
“Anyone would have won in this situation. And Gagloev won. This is how Bibilov turned from an all-people president into an unpopular politician”.
Former member of parliament Roland Kelekhsaev believes that the reasons for Bibilov’s defeat are obvious. First of all, there is an issue of personnel – he left in positions the people that he inherited from President Tibilov, despite the fact that, being in opposition, Bibilov sharply criticized them for corruption.
The deputy notes that some people who contributed to Bibilov’s victory remained unclaimed and did not receive positions because of this.
Kelekhsaev also names “lack of legality” and “some kind of stagnation” as one of the reasons for the discontent of the population.
“He solved all the issues himself. And if someone’s issue was not resolved, then the people blamed the president personally for the failures. He gathered all the negativity around him. We also saw the permissiveness of the security forces, and the death of Inal Dzhabiev was the last straw. All this together led to his defeat”, explains Kelekhsaev.
He believes that even after the first round, Bibilov could still change the situation – propose reforms, declare a government of people’s trust, and this could somehow soften the attitude towards him, but he did not.
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And because of this, using protest moods, the opposition candidate wins, says Kelekhsaev.
But will Alan Gagloev, for example, interfere in the investigation of his brother Alexander, who was arrested on suspicion of a triple murder?
“Gagloev won at the expense of the protest electorate and said that he was on the side of law and order. And if he ignores the letter of the law, he will cause an adequate response. And in five years we will see the same protest vote against him. I hope that he will take a balanced approach to public administration and personal interests will not be put in the first place”, Kelekhsaev believes.
Referendum on joining Russia
What is the fate of the referendum on the entry of South Ossetia into Russia, which was announced by President Bibilov? The documents have already been submitted to the CEC. After recognizing Gagloev’s victory, Bibilov announced that the republic would still hold a referendum.
Earlier, Gagloev officially announced at a televised debate that he would hold a plebiscite on the same issue.
Roland Kelekhsaev believes that the new president Alan Gagloev will hold a referendum.
According to Alan Mamiev, “even if a referendum is held, the entry itself will be put on hold for the time being due to the events in Ukraine”.
“I can say that the personnel issue is very relevant. If the new president appoints some unpopular officials, it will cause disappointment among the population”, Roland Kelekhsaev believes.
So far, intrigue remains in Gagloev’s entourage: will he return ex-Minister of Defense Ibragim Gasseev to the post and who will get the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs, which both ex-Minister, MP David Sanakoev and Deputy Foreign Minister Alan Kochiev expect to get.
Now everyone is also waiting for who will get the post of prime minister and whom Gagloev will place in law enforcement agencies.
“Unsuccessful personnel decisions will be reflected in his rating. If he returns former officials to power, who did nothing useful for the republic, this will be his first mistake. People who have compromised themselves with corruption and crime”, says Kelekhsaev.
Alan Mamiev notes that it is still difficult to comment on Gagloev’s plans, since “as a politician, few people know him outside of Tskhinval.”
“It’s hard to say. It was a protest vote. I think Gagloev himself did not fully believe in his victory. He probably doesn’t know what to do next. He does not have a serious team, which means he will use someone else’s, among other things. The question is – whose? It is hard to say. Around him are all the faces opposed to Bibilov. But what’s next? As usual, a squabble will begin, victories have been achieved, but there will not be enough posts for everyone, someone will have to be deprived.
Scandals and violations
The second round of elections did not pass without scandals. The “heroines” of one of them were the chairman of the CEC of South Ossetia, Emilia Gagieva, and the secretary, Kristina Avlokhova. According to some telegram shackles, on May 7, the day before the elections, they arbitrarily left for North Ossetia and held secret meetings there with presidential candidate Alan Gagloev.
On top of that, Gagiev was accused of taking out five thousand ballots on her own, which were intended for voters in North Ossetia.
Later, a video appeared on social media, which shows how, on the eve of voting, ballots with Alan Gagloev already ticked “for” are stamped in advance by automatic printing.
In addition, CEC member Igor Chochiev, sent to Vladikavkaz, was refused, in violation of the law, to be allowed to polling stations in North Ossetia. They let him in only after he filed a complaint.
In general, the international observers who were present at the elections did not find violations that could significantly affect the results of the elections. This was stated by the head of the delegation for monitoring the elections of the Federation Council of Russia Sergei Tsekov.
“We have not identified any violations that could affect the voting results in South Ossetia. Everything went at a high organizational level,” he said.
Despite statements by international observers that there were no violations, incidents did occur during the elections. In particular, a relative of candidate Alan Gagloev, an opposition member of parliament and namesake of the candidate Alan Gagloev, tried to impede the activities of observers who had arrived from Russia – he pursued them in a car, cut off their path, and then began to sort things out with him in an aggressive manner.
The observers filmed the incident on the phone and filed a complaint with the Ministry of Internal Affairs. An investigation is underway.
From time to time, information appeared on social networks about “bribery” of voters”, such information is published by supporters of both candidates, but law enforcement agencies have not yet commented on this information.
Magomed Bagaev, Prosecutor General of South Ossetia, said that there were no statements or complaints from participants in the electoral process. “The prosecutor’s office is ready to respond and give an appropriate assessment to complaints and statements, if any,” Bagaev said at the CEC press center.
At about 18.00 at polling station 5 in school No. 9 of Tskhinvali, a message was received about a “throw-in”. International observers found a stack of orphan ballots in the back room.
Bibilov’s Political Perspectives
Whether Bibilov will remain in public politics or leave the republic is still unknown.
“I think that Bibilov will leave for Moscow because the new government will begin to make claims against him. Demonstrative persecution of him may begin. And after all, we are talking about the struggle for financial flows, about the same smuggling of cigarettes, and who will take it under control. The most important thing is who will sit on the finances in the government of Gagloev. This appointment will show us the main beneficiaries of Gagloev’s victory,” Mamiev notes.
Roland Kelekhsaev believes that Bibilov will not leave South Ossetia and, perhaps, will again head back to the United Ossetia party, which has more votes in parliament. While the party “Nykhas” – Gagloev’s fellow party members, has only 5 mandates. At the same time he is supported by the opposition coalition.
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