How to become a part of Russia
There is a real ado in South Ossetia, at least on social networks. President Leonid Tibilov’s proposed amendments to the Constitution, namely to Article 10, which has caused controversy. If passed, the South Ossetian President will be entitled to individually appeal to Russia, requesting that South Ossetia’s join the RF as a separate state in the federation.
Putin is hesitating
As Tibilov stated at a news conference in early April 2016, he had discussed with the Russian President Moscow’s possible consideration of the issue of South Ossetia joining the Russian Federation as one of its republics.
“We discussed this issue with the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and came to the conclusion that this is a domestic affair for South Ossetia. This issue needs legal framework, and it would be necessary to make amendments to the RSO Constitution, whereby a referendum will be conducted, stated Tibilov.
In Bibilov’s opinion, if the South Ossetian President is granted the right to appeal to the RF President with the request to become one unified body, “we will thus free Russia from the political risks that could occur in the event of direct assemblage.
Leonid Tibilov is convinced that the referendum will be held in the near future–“not in a year or two, or even six months, but earlier.
Two weeks later, live on television on April 14, RF President, Vladimir Putin corrected his South Ossetian counterpart.
“We have not discussed the matter [of joining the RF] in any detail with the South Ossetian leader. He…said that South Ossetia’s people want to hold such a referendum…Nothing holds us back except for the interests of the South Ossetian people themselves. Though we don’t know yet what this referendum will entail and what the final wording will look like. Once we know, we will consider it further.
Optional but recommended
About a week later, on April 20, Tibilov’s administration published the two questions it was going to introduce at the referendum:
• “Do you agree with the introduction of an amendment to Article 10 of the Constitution?;
• “Do you agree to appeal to the Russian leadership, requesting South Ossetia’s integration into the RF?
It is suggested that the following paragraph should be added to Article 10 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Ossetia:
“Based on the results of the popular vote (referendum) on January 19, 1992, the President of the Republic of South Ossetia, with the consent of the Parliament of the Republic of South Ossetia, is entitled to appeal to the leadership of the Russian Federation with a proposal to accept the Republic of South Ossetia into the Russian Federation as a new territory of the Russian Federation and to agree upon a relevant treaty with the Russian Federation on South Ossetia’s integration into the Russian Federation as a new territory.
The present wording of the Article is as follows: “The Republic of South Ossetia is entitled to enter into the alliance with other countries and delegate part of its powers to the allied bodies.
The results of the referendum will in no way bind Moscow to make a decision, since it is a domestic matter to amend the Constitution. Leonid Tibilov’s administration believes such a measure provides the legal grounds for commencing the procedure of South Ossetia’s integration into Russia…even after such a long period of time.
A struggle for monopoly
The President’s initiative was immediately subjected to criticism. As it was stated on South Ossetian social media, the Constitution already allowed the republic’s authorities to set up an allied body or any other allied union, which includes the delegation of some of its powers. Therefore Tibilov’s plans are just an attempt to ‘monopolize’ the referendum theme and to single-handedly decide the fate of the Ossetian people.
Anatoly Bibilov, the Parliament Speaker and President Tibilov’s key opponent, who has been lobbying the idea of joining Russia through his “United Ossetia party since 2012, considered as illegitimate not the referendum, but the wording of the question itself.
Bibilov believes, the referendum should be held solely on the issue of joining the Russian Federation.
“As a citizen of South Ossetia and as the parliament speaker, I do not see and do not accept any other way besides a referendum, where the people will be asked whether they agree or not to join Russian…Only the people can decide when to appeal to the Russian leadership on such an important issue,’ he said.
Kosta Dzugaev, a political analyst and Director of the Center for Information Technologies “Intellectual Resources, believes, first of all, it is necessary to find out how much the very idea of the formation of a single allied body meets South Ossetia’s interests:
«I beg to differ and think that the majority of my compatriots share this opinion: the referendum should be held on the very simple and straightforward question about joining Russia. And we should capatilize on this “window of opportunity.
Dzugaev also considers it necessary to figure out whether there is a possibility to set up a uniform allied body with Russia based on the current Constitution or it is necessary to amend it?
“It looks too intricate, doesn’t it? South Ossetia should join Russia rather than create some supranational bodies. That’s how we should act. The time for piecemeal decision-making, apparently, is gone, Kosta Dzugaev believes.
It seems that in light of the condition that the political forces in South Ossetia are lacking any plausible ideas with regard to socio-economic development of the republic, integration into Russia will become a key issue both at the parliamentary and the presidential elections, which are due in a year.
• It’s not the first time that the incumbent authorities are initiating the discussion on South Ossetia joining Russia. The Head of the Republic, Leonid Tibilov, started his activity with the statement concerning the republic’s integration into Russia: “If South Ossetia joins Russia on the will of its’ citizens, I will regard my presidential mission as successfully accomplished.
• In early 2014, Anatoly Bibilov, SO Parliament Speaker and leader of the “United Ossetia party, stood with the initiative to hold a referendum on the unification of North and South Ossetia with Russia. These campaign slogans helped the “United Ossetia party get the majority of the vote in 2014 parliamentary elections.
• Meanwhile, Tskhinval authorities also suggested some alternatives to direct integration into Russia. South Ossetian leadership showed aspiration towards joining the Customs Union, the Eurasian Economic Union and reuniting with North Ossetia which lies within the Russian Federation.
The opinions, expressed in this article convey the author’s views and terminology do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the editorial staff.
Published on: 03. 05. 2016