South Ossetia: Does Inauguration Close Book on Domestic Political Strife?
Separatist South Ossetia finally has a new de-facto president: Leonid Tibilov, a former KGB boss, took the oath of office on April 19.
It took four tumultuous takes to elect the new leader. Comrades-in-separatism Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria sent representatives to attend Tibilov’s inauguration in the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali. The highest-profile guest was Russian Duma Chairman Sergei Naryshkin. Also present was Nicaraguan Ambassador Luis Alberto Molina Quadra. Nicaragua and Venezuela, along with a couple of Pacific Islands, are the only states to follow Russia in recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Perhaps the most important attendee was Alla Jioyeva, an opposition presidential candidate, who bucked both local authorities and Kremlin in her bid for the South Ossetian leadership. The annulment of her reported victory came close to sparking civilian unrest. Since many South Ossetians still believe that she was the rightful winner of the popular vote, Jioyeva’s presence at the April 19 inauguration raises hopes that South Ossetia’s domestic political strife has blown over.
But Tibilov still needs to sort out complicated relations with Moscow and deal with the legacy of massive embezzlement of Russian aid. His pro-Russian stance and KGB past may not be enough to earn Tibilov the full trust of Moscow. “I’d like to assure leadership of the Russian Federation that we will do our best to stay the course chosen by our people, and this choice is connected to Russia,” Tibilov told Naryshkin. “We will be a reliable partner to Russia on its southern flanks.”