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South Ossetia election descends into chaos

The South Ossetian Presidential election looks like it will descend into bitter recrimination as both candidates have claimed victory.

With more than 85% of the votes counted, opposition candidate Alla Dzhioyeva is reported to have secured 56.74% of the vote. If correct, this would leave the Emergencies Minister, and leader of the Unity Party, Anatoly Bibilov with little more than a mathematical chance of victory.

Dzhioyeva has called on her opponent to cede defeat, telling him that “the public has passed its judgment on the ruling power.”

However, Bibilov is protesting, claiming exit polls show that he has a seven point lead over Dzhioyeva, and that his opponent has secured an illegal advantage by bribing and pressuring voters.

Bibilov has taken his case all the way to the country’s Supreme Court, which has ordered that South Ossetia’s Central Election Commission should not announce any further results until it has made a decision about whether the election was conducted lawfully.

The Court hopes to make a decision today, but this is far from certain. And, even if it does take a decision, it is not clear if the losing candidate will accept it, risking throwing South Ossetia’s immediate future into chaos.

With South Ossetian presidential candidate Anatoly Bibilov.

Bibilov is widely regarded as the Kremlin’s favoured candidate – a perception not helped by Dmitry Medvedev’s decision to warmly greet Bibilov a couple of weeks ago and pose for a few photographs with him. As we noted previously, both Bibilov and Dzhioyeva are actually fairly pro-Russian in their outlook, but any Supreme Court decision to re-run the ballot or award victory to Bibilov will naturally lead to criticism that the Kremlin is meddling in the elections of its puppet state.

Update 28 November 16:35 GMT: According to the Moscow Times, the court has delayed its decision until tomorrow (Tuesday).

Update 29 November 18:45 GMT: The Supreme Court has declared the election null and void, and banned Dzhioyeva from participating in a re-run.

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