South Ossetia votes in parliamentary elections – overview
South Ossetia is electing a new parliament today, June 9.
A total of 99 candidates are registered in 17 single-member constituencies. 60 of them are party candidates, while 38 are self-nominated candidates. The elections are being held for the first time in a mixed majoritarian-proportional system.
The campaign period did not clarify the programmes of either the parties or specific candidates.
Campaigns were limited to general criticism of the ruling United Ossetia party and agitation based on promises to “improve the life of the people.” All participating political parties focus on allied relations with Russia and on socio-economic issues.
The campaign period was also marked first by the hope of the emergence of new young politicians in parliament – and then by disappointment that this would not happen, since some were blocked during registration.
• South Ossetia: who’s running for the new parliament, what to know about them
The elections in figures
Seven political parties are participating in this election: United Ossetia, Unity of the People, the People’s Party, Nykhas, the Communist Party, Fydybasta (Fatherland) and the Unity Party.
About 50 observers came to observe the elections. The Central Election Commission says representatives of various organizations from Germany, Finland, Belgium, Japan and Italy are among the observers.
Elections will only be considered valid if more than 50 percent of voters participate in the vote. Parties need to overcome the seven percent barrier to enter parliament and single-mandate candidates and self-nominated candidates will win if they gain a simple majority of votes.
Voting is taking place not only in South Ossetia, but also at polling stations in Vladikavkaz, Moscow and Sukhum – but abroad, it is possible to vote for political parties.
The option “against all” was returned to ballot papers.
Favorites and the opposition
The favorite in the race is the ruling United Osssetia party – which is the party of the current president, Anatoly Bibilov, although now it is headed by the head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, Alan Tadtaev.
In the previous parliamentary elections in 2014, the party won the overwhelming majority of seats (20 out of 34). Experts predict that the party will take most seats in the new parliament.
A week before the elections, former President Eduard Kokoity arrived in the republic, who in recent years has been regarded as one of the leading opposition figures.
Kokoity has openly called for supporting two parties at once – one of them is the People’s Party, created under his patronage. Another choice, according to the politician, is to be made in favor of the Communist Party. According to unofficial information, there are many supporters of Kokoity in the Communist Party.
However, this activity of the ex-president is unwelcome by many political forces in South Ossetia.
The Communist Party leader Stanislav Kochiev states that the Communists will not allow outside interference and do not need Kokoity’s support.
“We are a self-sufficient party and do not depend on the opposition, nor on the authorities,” Kochiev said.
Ex-President Tibilov spoke with criticism of Kokoity. However, Kokoity himself had previously subjected Tibilov to very harsh criticism and made accusations against him, in particular – of falsifying a property declaration.
Pyotr Gassiev, the speaker of parliament, called the role of Kokoity in the election process “destructive”.
Young politicians unable to run
During the pre-election period, many in South Ossetia expected that the parliamentary elections would bring new leaders into politics.
Earlier in the year, the opposition political party Nykhas announced a merger with two other parties – the Alan Union and New Ossetia.
All three parties are headed by relatively young politicians.
However, they ran into problems from the start.
The Alan Union was not allowed to register as a political party, and problems with its party documents were identified as the reason.
Later, a number of both party candidates and independent candidates were not allowed to register for the elections.
The opposition has accused the incumbent President Anatoly Bibilov of conducting an election campaign in violation of the law, given he is the president.
Also, the “People’s Party” and the ex-president Eduard Kokoity were in the center of attention almost the entire pre-election period.
There was a big uproar when one of the candidates from the party Alan Gabaraev read a statement during a televised debate on June 1, in which he accused the leadership of South Ossetia that they were preparing provocations against the ex-president if he arrived in the republic.
However, then Kokoity safely arrived in his homeland and held meetings with voters, campaigning for the People’s Party.
Representatives of the People’s Party had to make excuses for the exalted statement of their candidate Alan Gabaraev and say that it was his personal opinion and does not reflect the official position of the party.
On June 4, another MP from the People’s Party Amiran Dyakonov, also in a televised debate, denied Gabaraev’s statements:
“No one was going to ban [Kokoity] from entering or restrict the movement of the ex-president.”
Despite several exacerbations during the pre-election period, the whole day began and is passing quite calmly.