Scandals, protests, investigations - South Ossetia gets ready for presidential elections
Presidential elections in South Ossetia
Presidential elections in South Ossetia will be held on 10th of April. There are five candidates in total, including incumbent President Anatoly Bibilov. The opposition failed to nominate a single candidate in these elections. The former president and former defense minister, who did not get registered as candidates, are trying to disrupt the elections.
Of the 17 candidates, five candidates were admitted to the elections. The rest were not registered by the Central Election Commission – either due to revealed violations, concealment of income, or “failed” language exam. According to the law, a candidate for the presidency is required to pass oral and written exams for knowledge of the Ossetian and Russian languages.
As a result, the incumbent President Anatoly Bibilov, the head of the opposition Nykhas party Alan Gagloev, the former chairman of the People’s Party, the vice-speaker of parliament Alexander Pliev, the former vice-speaker, the former head of the parliamentary committee on defense and security Dmitry Tasoev, and MP Garry Muldarov will compete for the presidency.
The last two candidates used to be members of the ruling United Ossetia party, but due to internal conflicts, they left it and joined the opposition and their former party member Anatoly Bibilov.
The peculiarity of these elections is that the opposition of South Ossetia turned out to be fragmented and could not or did not want to nominate a single candidate due to internal disagreements.
Instead, the struggle for the votes of the protest electorate will unfold between four opponents of Anatoly Bibilov: Gagloev, Pliev, Tasoev and Muldarov.
On March 30, former Defense Minister Ibragim Gasseev, who was denied registration as a candidate, announced his support for the candidacy of People’s Party chairman Alexander Pliyev.
Thus, former officials from the team of the former president (in 2001-2011) Eduard Kokoity united around Pliev, since both Gasseev and Pliev were part of Kokoity’s close circle during the years of his presidency.
Earlier, the CEC refused to register Kokoity because he had not lived in the republic for the past few years. Attempts to challenge the decision also failed.
Ibragim Gasseev was removed from the elections for the same reason. He was accused of violating the law, in particular, the rules for collecting signatures for a candidate.
The authorities claim that signatures for Gasseev were collected by two members of the territorial election commissions, to which they were not entitled. In addition, as handwriting experts established, signature sheets were filled out with one hand.
But that’s not all. According to one of the members of the CEC, Igor Chochiev, Gasseev’s ex-wife Kristina Avlokhova, who has been the CEC secretary since 2009, as well as the chairman of the commission, Emilia Gagiev, committed forgery: they changed the signature sheets in Gasseev’s documents, replacing those containing violations with new ones thus once again falsifying the signature sheets submitted to the CEC.
The degree of tension increased when the CEC, contrary to the requirements of the law, did not make a decision on the registration of candidates on March 15 until 18.00. Moreover, despite the revealed violations and the scandal with the forgery of documents, the head of the CEC and the secretary of the commission voted for his registration as a presidential candidate. However, his candidacy was rejected by a majority of votes.
On March 16, the KGB of South Ossetia, at the request of Igor Chochiev, searched the Central Election Commission and launched an investigation into the issue. State security officers see signs of a crime in the actions of Emilia Gagieva and Kristina Avlokhova.
Since it is impossible to change the leadership of the CEC during the election campaign, both participants in the scandal continue to hold positions.
Gasseev and Kokoity vs. Bibilov
Amid that, Ibragim Gasseev, who found himself overboard, together with ex-president Eduard Kokoity, entered into an alliance and called for the disruption of the elections. They demanded not to allow Anatoly Bibilov to vote.
“My main goal is not even to return to the election race, but to prevent Anatoly Bibilov from participating in it”, the former defense minister said.
Kokoity and Gasseev tried to convene an emergency session of parliament with the support of some opposition deputies, gathering supporters on March 25 near the building of the highest legislative body.
The reason for the protest was video footage from the CEC building, shown by Kokoity to his supporters. Footage taken on March 5 and 6 shows that after the head of the CEC leaves the building, other employees remain there, including Igor Chochiev. They move along the corridors, in the hands of some some papers.
According to Kokoity, the video footage confirms that the forgery of Gasseev’s documents was not committed by Gagiev and Avlokhova, but, on the contrary, by Igor Chochiev, according to statement go whom, in fact, the KGB is investigating the head and secretary of the CEC.
The head of the CEC stated that nothing was missing from her office, and she had no information about what exactly the CEC members did at work in her absence during non-working hours.
In turn, the members of the election committee filmed on camera explain that Gagiev herself left the keys to her colleagues and was aware that the members of the CEC were continuing to work.
Part of the parliamentary opposition, including presidential candidate Garry Muldarov, joined Kokoity and Gasseev in the protest in front of the parliament.
They failed to achieve the convocation of an extraordinary session, and after a couple of hours they dispersed. However, they did not give up plans to disrupt the elections.
If the vote does not take place on April 10, new elections will be scheduled. Registered candidates will no longer be able to participate, and those who were refused will try to re-nominate their candidacy. This version of events is beneficial for Gasseev, opposition MP David Sanakoev and Eduard Kokoity himself, who were not registered by the CEC during these elections.
However, such a scenario does not meet the interests of other opposition players admitted to the elections, in particular, the leader of the Nykhas party, Alan Gagloev. He expects to gather the entire opposition electorate and compete with the incumbent president.
The absence of Gagloev among the oppositionists besieging the parliament can be explained by his desire to play his own game and compete for the presidency during these April 10 elections.
Kokoity and Gasseev announced that they would again try to convene an extraordinary session and invite the heads of law enforcement agencies to it. The current authorities, in turn, consider their actions an attempt to escalate tensions and a provocation.
Authorities recall that it was Kokoity and Gasseev who had already tried to “illegally seize power” in this way 11 years ago, when armed supporters of Kokoity, led by the then First Deputy Minister of Defense Gasseev, surrounded the parliament and tried to force the deputies to change the constitution to allow Kokoity to stay in power for a third term.
Then the parliamentarians refused to submit to pressure and called what was happening a “military coup”.
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