Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia will hold its 2022 presidential election today.
The de facto presidential race began in mid-March, with incumbent president Anatoly Bibilov facing strong competition from four candidates. However, the Central Electoral Commission disqualified some of the strongest contenders.
On March 31, Bibilov announced that South Ossetia would hold a referendum on joining Russia following today’s election. Georgia’s Foreign Ministry called the move unacceptable due to the territory being internationally recognized as part of Georgia. The Kremlin says it has not taken any legal steps on the matter, but is treating South Ossetia’s opinion with respect.
Bibilov’s decision to support the deployment of South Ossetian soldiers to fight for Russia in Ukraine has damaged his popularity. The move is likely meant to leverage the current Russia-Ukraine war as an opportunity to gain Moscow’s support for unification, which remains popular among South Ossetians. Therefore, considering that most of the strongest candidates were disqualified from running prior to today’s election, expect Bibilov to win.
It is also likely that South Ossetia will vote for reunification, though Russia may hesitate to recognize the referendum in fear of provoking greater sanctions from the West and NATO weapons delivery to Georgia.
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Alex is an Analyst focusing on political events in the post-Soviet space. With a background in international law and diplomacy, his expertise lies in the geopolitical, economic and energy security dynamics of the South Caucasus.