Can’t Anyone Here Play This Game?

Politics in the Caucasus bring Casey Stengel to mind on a regular basis. In the most recent instance, people in South Ossetia refuse to convert their separatist polity into a “guided democracy.” (Why you should maybe care about South Ossetia.)

From Time magazine,

The region’s budget comes almost exclusively from Russian aid, which has added up to about a billion dollars since 2008 … Besides, the region has only 28,000 registered voters, most of whom hold Russian passports … The region’s President, Eduard Kokoity, openly stated in 2008 that South Ossetia should eventually become a part of Russian territory. So it seemed obvious that when Kokoity’s term in office ran out this year, Russia’s favored candidate would easily succeed him.

Except no. First, in June 2011, armed Kokoity supporters burst into the de facto parliament and demanded laws be changed to allow him to serve a third term as president. Parliament refused to budge. Then a faction attempted to get one Dzhambolat Tedeyev onto the ballot. He, however, lives in Moscow and fell afoul of residency requirements. His armed supporters, too, tried to storm a government body to force it to change its views. It demurred.

Time picks up the thread:

Russia’s leading daily Kommersant. Its sources in the Russian government claimed that officials from the Kremlin, the Defense Ministry and two Russian spy agencies, among others, had been interviewing would-be Presidents of South Ossetia. Finally, at the end of August, they settled on the region’s Minister of Emergency Situations, Anatoly Bibilov, who had studied to be a paratrooper in Russia when he was young. His platform was simple. If he was elected, he would make South Ossetia an official Russian territory, no longer a quasi-independent state.

It turns out that the 28,000 had other ideas. The first round of voting on November 13 did not produce a clear winner, with Bibilov practically tied with Alla Dzhioyeva a former Minister of Education in the de facto government, whom the AP report describes as an “anti-corruption crusader.” On November 27, initial results from the runoff election showed her with a 16% lead over Bibilov.

After those results became public, Bibilov accused Dzhioyeva’s supporters of bribery and intimidation. He appealed to the region’s Supreme Court to annul the election. Which the Court did on November 29. For good measure, it ruled that the results of the November 27 elections should not be made public, and that Dzhioyeva should be prohibited from running in a new election. The Court declined to say which parts of the election law served as the basis for its ruling.

The situation remains volatile. Crowds have gathered in front of the parliament building in the separatist region’s capital of Tskhinvali. As Radio Free Europe’s Liz Fuller writes, “Kokoity, who affirmed the day after the first round that it was unthinkable that a woman should be elected to head a Caucasus republic, appears ready to resort to violence against Dzhioyeva’s supporters.”

This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros, Governments and parties, Political issues by Doug Merrill. Bookmark the permalink.

About Doug Merrill

Freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, following stints in Atlanta, Budapest, Munich, Warsaw and Washington. Worked for a German think tank, discovered it was incompatible with repaying US student loans. Spent two years in financial markets. Bicycled from Vilnius to Tallinn. Climbed highest mountains in two Alpine countries (the easy ones, though). American center-left, with strong yellow dog tendencies. Arrived in the Caucasus two weeks before its latest war.

4 thoughts on “Can’t Anyone Here Play This Game?

  1. I wonder how many words per South Ossetian, or per square km of disputed territory, have been written in the international press about the conflict?

  2. Also, the head of SO Supreme Court Bichenov is a first cousin of current president Kokoity.

    Just a nice little fact

  3. Plenty, Colin, I am sure. On the other hand, the region was the spark that lit the Russia’s first inter-state war since the collapse of Communism, so it’s not insignificant.

    Thanks, Konstantin, though with a population of that size, I imagine family connections are likely to be pretty prevalent.

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