South Ossetian Supreme Soviet chairman Lyudvig Chibirov has won the first-ever presidential election in the unrecognized republic. Voter turnout was low, and ethnic Georgians boycotted the election. Chibirov received a narrow but absolute majority of the votes against five challengers in the first round of balloting on November 10. The 64-year-old former history professor has chaired the Supreme Soviet since 1992.
Chibirov and his supporters advocate a cautious and gradual approach to unification with the Russian Federation’s republic of North Ossetia. Some of his challengers favored a faster advance toward that goal, which was approved in South Ossetia’s 1991 and 1992 referendums on secession from Georgia. In a statement reflecting the gradualist approach, the Supreme Soviet’s national policy commission chairman Sergei Kochiev stated yesterday that "South Ossetia’s position remains unchanged: independence, and possible accession later on to the Russian Federation." Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze, in a radio speech yesterday, condemned the election but stopped short of dramatizing it. He indicated that Tbilisi will continued negotiations with the existing South Ossetian leadership toward autonomy for that region within Georgia. (Interfax, November 10-11)
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