South Ossetia Votes In Parliamentary Elections
[UPDATE]: Current President of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity has won the election as was expected.
Final results issued by the election commission of the South Ossetian separatist government after Sunday's elections said Yedinstvo (Unity) was the clear winner after polling 46.36 per cent.
The People's Party, also largely uncritical of Kokoity, won 22.53 per cent while the Communists scored 22.25 per cent.
"We will work closely together to follow the path of independence that the republic has chosen," Mr Kokoity said as the results were announced.
Georgia’s breakaway republic of South Ossetia is holding its first Parliamentary elections on Sunday. At the end of the military conflict with Georgia in August of 2008, two states – Russia and Nicaragua – have officially recognized South Ossetia as an independent state. Another de facto independent republic of Abkhazia has recognized South Ossetia’s independence in 2006. The Russian influence is still heavy in South Ossetia with the Russian-backed current leader of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity expected to win Sunday’s elections, although there are four parties competing for 34 seats in South Ossetian Parliament. Kokoity’s opposition has been openly accusing South Ossetia’s President of pocketing the aid money allocated by Russia to South Ossetia's government for rebuilding the country's infrastructure after the August 2008 conflict with Georgia. South Ossetia's opposition also claims that Kokoity wants a landslide victory to make sure that the Parliament will not stand in the way of him amending the Constitution to enable him to run for a third term.
According to the year 2000 estimates, 70,000 people were residing in South Ossetia. Out of that number, 50,000 were eligible to vote in Sunday’s election, but many polling stations were set up in Russia for expatriates and refugees to vote at.
Obviously, Georgia considers the election illegal. Meanwhile, Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvili is facing unceasing protests from opposition leaders, who are demanding his resignation for the kind of political leadership that he has shown so far.
Critics of South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity claim he stifles dissent and scares challengers away with threats of violence. They say money for restoring infrastructure destroyed in the conflict has disappeared and are calling for a boycott of Sunday's election.
Much of South Ossetia remains battle-scarred after last summer's conflict and some residents say the pace of rebuilding has been slow, our correspondent says.
A coalition of opposition parties has accused Mr Kokoity of embezzling Russian aid money - a claim he denies.
The opposition also claims 44-year-old Mr. Kokoity is seeking a landslide victory for his party to minimize resistance to constitutional changes that would strengthen his grip on power.
About 50,000 South Ossetians were eligible to vote in the elections and polling stations have been set up in Russia for expatriates and refugees who fled the region during the war.
The president pledged they would be carried out strictly in accordance with law, calling the polls a "maturity test for the small independent state".
Georgia regards the elections as illegal; it sees the territory as still part of Georgian sovereign territory.