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South Ossetia: From Strongman to Strongwoman?

The outcome of the fiercely contested de facto presidential election in breakaway South Ossetia is neither conclusive, nor legitimate as far as most of the world cares, but what is certain is that a female candidate has broken a glass ceiling there.

In a slap in the face for the region's macho-man-in-chief, de facto lame duck leader Eduard Kokoity, the early vote tally from South Ossetia's de facto November 27 run-off gave the lead to opposition candidate Alla Jioyeva, a former de facto education minister. Ahead of the poll, Kokoity had reasoned that a woman stands no chance of being elected in South Ossetia since, at the end of the day, the “Caucasus is the Caucasus."
         
But, at least at this stage, up to 57 percent of South Ossetia’s voters (minus the ethnic Georgian population expelled during the 2008 Russia-Georgia war) would beg to differ. Jioyeva’s strong showing is also an embarrassment for Moscow, South Ossetia’s big brother, which placed all its bets on her chief rival, the establishment candidate Anatoly Bibilov, the de facto emergency situations minister.

Yet another Kremlin favorite “fails to everyone’s dismay and to jeers from all observers, putting Russia in a highly unattractive light as a country, which despite all its territorial might, despite its status as a great power, cannot have the candidate it needs put into place in a tiny republic which 100 percent depends on Russia,” Pavel Svyatenkov, an analyst for Russia’s National Strategy Institute, commented to the Kommersant newspaper.

But Bibilov, perhaps inspired by a handshake from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, is not giving up without a fight. His supporters have filed an elections violation complaint with the separatist Supreme Court, which ordered the de facto local election authority not to publicize vote count returns until the court rules on the complaint.

Whatever the outcome, it is going to be dismissed by the European Union and the United States, which both regard the enclave as part of Georgia. With many thousands of ethnic Georgians from South Ossetia now unable to return to their homes (those left standing), Tbilisi called the de facto poll a “pseudo-democratic farce.”  

South Ossetia: From Strongman to Strongwoman?

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