Anatoly Bibilov, the speaker of parliament, has won the presidential election in the de facto Republic of South Ossetia. A majority of voters also approved in the 9 April poll, adding ‘the State of Alania’ to South Ossetia’s name.
Bibilov won 58% of votes, according to preliminary results from South Ossetia’s Central Election Commission (CEC). According to Russian state-owned media outlet Sputnik Ossetia, results from all polling stations have been counted except for Java (Dzau) District and North Ossetia.
Outgoing president Leonid Tibilov came second with 30% of votes, while KGB officer Alan Gagloyev won 11%.
Russian state-run TASS news agency reported that 78% of voters supported changing South Ossetia’s name to the ‘Republic of South Ossetia — the State of Alania’. Voter turnout was reportedly 81%.
‘I was sure I would win’, Bibilov said on 10 April.
Earlier in March, the CEC refused to register former president Eduard Kokoyty, who came out strongly in favour of maintaining South Ossetia’s independence, as a candidate. This left Tibilov and Bibilov, who, according to RFE/RL, have been at odds over the optimum approach to engineering South Ossetia’s incorporation into the Russian Federation.
The name change has been interpreted as a symbolic step towards asserting a shared historical heritage with the Russian Republic of North Ossetia–Alania.
There is debate within South Ossetia over whether they should aim to join Russia as a separate republic, unify with North Ossetia–Alania, or remain independent.
The election and referendum were condemned by Georgia, the US, and the EU, who consider South Ossetia to be part of Georgia. South Ossetia declared independence following the August 2008 war, and is recognised by four countries including Russia, which maintains a large military presence in the South Ossetia.