Breakaway region of South Ossetia will hold parliamentary elections on Sunday in which nine political parties are contesting for 34 seats in the legislative body.
Elections are held under the proportional, party-list system; a political party will have to clear 7% threshold to endorse its members to the breakaway region’s parliament.
It will be the six parliamentary election in the breakaway region; Tbilisi denounces elections in its breakaway regions, which it formally considers as territories occupied by Russia, as illegitimate.
Only four parties were running in the previous parliamentary elections breakaway South Ossetia in 2009; three of them, all supporters of then South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity, cleared the threshold. Several new political parties were established after Kokoity’s second and final presidential term expired and following turbulent 2011 presidential election and March, 2012 repeat presidential election in the breakaway region.
Below is the list of parties running in the Sunday’s poll:
- United Ossetia is led by Anatoly Bibilov, acting minister of emergency situations of the breakaway region; joining Russia was one of the key campaign themes of the party. One of its campaign leaflets was called “Five Steps to Russia” in which holding a referendum on joining Russia was named as the first step. Bibilov was a presidential candidate in disputed 2011 election, backed by Russia, but like his main competitor Alla Jioyeva, he too refused to run in the repeat election, which was won by Leonid Tibilov, the current leader of the breakaway region.
- New Ossetia, which was established in 2012, is led by acting foreign minister of the breakaway region David Sanakoev; the latter founded the party after 2012 repeat presidential election; in the runoff of that election Sanakoev garnered over 42% of votes, losing the race against current South Ossetian leader Leonid Tibilov. Sanakoev opens one of his party’s campaign clips by saying: “I strongly disagree that we are a failed state.” Sanakoev says that integration to Russia’s North Ossetia can only be possible through “building strong independent South Ossetia.”
- Nikhas, which was established in 2013, enjoys with backing of two influential figures in the breakaway region – interior minister Akhsar Lavoev and chief of foreign intelligence Soslan Gatikoev, both close allies of South Ossetian leader Leonid Tibilov. The party is chaired by mayor of Tskhinvali Alan Albarov. One of the candidates of Nikhas, who was number 16th on the party list, had to withdraw from the race after a photo of his purported Georgian ID emerged on internet few days before the election.
- Unity party is led by vice-speaker of breakaway region’s parliament Zurab Kokoev; it garnered over 46% of votes in the 2009 parliamentary elections.
- Communist Party is chaired by Stanislav Kochiev, speaker of outgoing parliament; veteran political figure in the breakaway region, Kochiev is not running for the seat in parliament in the Sunday’s election; Kochiev received 5.6% of votes in repeat presidential election in the breakaway region in 2012 and in the second round supported Leonid Tibilov.
- Unity of People is led by Vladimir Kelekhsaev, who was appointed as head of Java district of the breakaway region after Tibilov became the South Ossetian leader.
- Fidibasta (Fatherland) is led by Vyacheslav Gobozov, head of the breakaway regin’s state committee for information; the party received up to 6,63% of votes in 2009 election and was the only party, which failed to clear required threshold.
- Homeland, the party was established a year ago.
- People’s Party, led by a member of outgoing parliament Alexander Pliev.
There was “no fierce political struggle or scandal” during the campaign in lead up to the Sunday’s polls, RFE/RL’s Russian-langue Ekho Kavkaza reported from Tskhinvali.