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1 Jun, 2009 15:03

Pro-government party wins South Ossetia's parliamentary vote

Preliminary results of the parliamentary election in South Ossetia suggest that the ruling Unity Party has won with over 46% of the vote. The republic has held its first parliamentary election as an independent state.

South Ossetia was recognized as an independent state by Russia and Nicaragua following Georgia’s attack on the republic in August last year.

”Maturity test”

Four parties have been fighting for 34 seats in the local assembly: the ruling Unity Party, the local Communist Party, the People’s Party and the Socialist Party.

According to the results, the local Communist Party garnered 25% of the votes and the People’s Party more than 22%. Both of them have passed the 7% vote threshold, thus gaining seats, Interfax news agency reports. The Socialist party is lagging behind with approximately 6%.

Unity now take 17 of the 34 available assembly seats, with nine going to the Peoples’ Party and eight to the Communists.

South Ossetia’s President Eduard Kokoity spoke to the people just after the polling stations closed and congratulated everyone on the unity that they showed throughout the election, and throughout the entire South Ossetian struggle for independence:

“I want to congratulate you all on this victory! It's a great feeling to be winners! I want to thank everyone who cast their vote no matter what party he or she chose. We've been voting for our future, we’ve been voting for our Unity, and the Unity Party has indeed been the winner. I want to congratulate all the parties. It’s the first vote we've had as a recognized independent country, which we've proved that we deserved,” Kokoity said.

Kokoity also mentioned that two terrorist acts were prevented during the election.

“Security has been tightened for these two days and this allowed us to prevent two terror attacks. I’d like to thank all the journalists and observers working here for their understanding regarding the additional security measures,” Kokoity said.

He added that South Ossetia and its statehood have passed another maturity test:

“You all have seen that there have been no incidents, the situation is completely stable. I intend to work constructively with the South Ossetian Parliament, and I’m ready to transfer more power to the Parliament, regarding the formation of the government.”

The election in the republic has been considered valid as the turnout was almost 82% – significantly more than the required 50% of registered voters plus one vote.

According to Bella Pliyeva, the chairperson of the country's Central Electoral Commission, the number of voters in South Ossetia constitutes 52,000 people.

Observers’ reaction

The voting procedure was being monitored by international observers representing a number of countries, including Germany, Poland, Ukraine and Russia.

European parliament member Giulietto Chiesa said the election was completely up to international standards:

“Everything is normal. International standards have been very clearly satisfied. I believe it is a very high demonstration of maturity. In this particular situation, the most important [thing] is the participation of people. And that is a fact. There’s a large participation and people wanted to show that they believe in their independence,” he said.

However, the OSCE monitoring body refused to participate because South Ossetia is not part of the Organization.

And the European Union has called the parliamentary election in South Ossetia “illegitimate”. The announcement was made by the Czech Republic – the country chairing the EU at the moment.

Insider’s view

Local journalist Joe Mestas, an American freelance photographer who lives in South Ossetia and is married to a local woman, is convinced that South Ossetia should be independent:

“The election today – even if the international press and observers were not here – it would be just as free as they are today. I’m very happy to have participated in the elections here too. I look forward to countries in the future to recognizing South Ossetia. They are independent. They need to be independent from Georgia.”

Zalina Tskhovrebova is the editor of a South Ossetian newspaper and a resident of Tskhinval. She considers herself lucky. She has a wonderful family and a challenging job as a journalist, but most of all she feels lucky to be alive. When Georgia attacked South Ossetia in August 2008 her house was in the line of fire. Recalling the horrific days of war, Zalina points to neighboring buildings, indicating where the Georgian soldiers were.

“They were shelling and shelling… Our entire building was shaking and we thought it would never stop. The marks of their fire are still visible everywhere,” Zalina said.

A piece of shrapnel remains lodged in their balcony door. Next door wasn't so lucky, as the flat is now an empty shell filled with rubble. Thankfully the fighting is over, and life is slowly returning to normal.

“It’s such a huge step for us, for our country. We've been waiting for independence for nearly 20 years – and now we've been recognised, so this election – despite the fact it’s actually the fifth – is perhaps the most important one we could have,” Zalina Tskhovrebova says.

Georgia: throwing a spanner in the works?

On Sunday, South Ossetian officials announced that Georgia is not allowing the republic’s citizens, who are staying in Georgia temporarily, to cross the border in order to vote.

“From early morning today, Georgian authorities closed the border and are not letting South Ossetian citizens who were visiting Georgia to return to the republic to vote,” said the head of Leningorsky region of the South Ossetia on Sunday. “Many of those who came to visit their relatives in Georgia yesterday and the day before yesterday are now standing on the opposite side of the border.”

Georgia, however, denied the information, in spite of the fact that the country’s parliament labeled the election as “illegitimate”.

Georgian authorities have repeatedly called the election a farce and a Russian-backed ploy to destabilize the region.

Locals say their little Caucasian republic is defiantly choosing to focus on their future, not the past.