On April, 9th, 2017, Presidential elections as well as a referendum took place in Georgia’s breakaway province of South Ossetia. The sparsely populated area at the Russian-Georgian border declared independence from the then Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1991. Except for Russia, only three states recognize South Ossetia as an independent state. In 2008, a war between Russia and Georgia about the territory of South Ossetia broke out.
The election outcome ties South Ossetia even stronger up to Russia. Incumbent President Leonid Tibilov, a former KGB official, ran for a second term, but was defeated by the former speaker of the parliament, Anatoliy Bibilov. At the same time, a referendum on changing the official name to “Republic of South Ossetia – the State of Alania” was held and got 80% approval.
Caucasus expert Peter-Andreas Bochmann, Head of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation’s South Caucasus Office, stated that neither Georgia nor the European Union recognise the elections as legal. Many Georgians were also irritated about the chosen date: on April, 9th, 1989, an anti-Soviet demonstration in Tbilisi was dispersed by the Soviet Army, causing 21 deaths and many injuries. Even though there is no armed conflict at the moment, the administrative border is gradually shifted to Georgian mainland. Mr. Bochmann explained that a reintegration of South Ossetia to the Georgian heartland is very unlikely. On the contrary, a de-facto integration into the Russian Federation seems possible.
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