Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 20

On January 27, the incumbent president of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alaniya, Aleksandr Dzasokhov, won a second term in office (Russian agencies, January 28). None of the six other presidential hopefuls proved a serious opponent. Dzasokhov’s only real rival, Sergei Khetagurov, head of North Ossetia’s Association of Metal Recyclers, was barred from the race after inconsistencies were allegedly found on the income declaration that all aspiring candidates are required to complete (see the Monitor, January 22). Khetagurov’s disqualification sparked large protest demonstrations, which, coming as they did on top of a string of unexplained terrorist incidents in the republic, provoked the local authorities to declare a security alert in the capital, Vladikavkaz. Khetagurov’s team appeared on television to appeal to all “honest candidates” to withdraw from the election and made ineffectual attempts to appeal against his exclusion (Itar-Tass, Strana.ru, January 18). On January 26, the day before the election, the Russian Supreme Court considered Khetagurov’s appeal and rejected it (Lenta.ru, NNS.ru, January 26). Meanwhile, Khetagurov called on his supporters to vote for Stanislav Suanov, currently deputy head of the Ministry of Emergencies–a post Khetagurov himself once held (Strana.ru, January 19; Polit.ru, January 25).

The court’s verdict chimed with the Kremlin’s apparent unwillingness to see Khetagurov elected president of North Ossetia. Reportedly, the Kremlin preferred to keep Dzasokhov in office (NTV.ru, January 27). Faced with this fact of life, Khetagurov’s supporters regrouped behind their hero’s favorite and campaigned for Suanov. Adding his voice to the chorus of support for Suanov was the leader of the regional branch of the Communist Party (January 26; KMnews, January 27). To no avail: Suanov won 29 percent of the vote while Dzasokhov romped home with 56 percent (Russian agencies, January 28).

It is hard to say how accurately these results reflect political reality in North Ossetia. The security restrictions in Vladikavkaz were not rescinded and election day passed under the watchful eyes of armed security troops. Though no one claimed responsibility for the various terrorist incidents that preceded the elections and the culprits have not been arrested, the incidents were commonly assumed to be intended to cause the cancellation of the presidential election. The last terrorist incident occurred on January 21, when a bomb went off close to a car carrying Kazbek Dzantiev, head of the republic’s Interior Ministry (RIA Novosti and ORT, January 21). Officers of the regional branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) noted, however, that the bomb had been laid in a very unprofessional way: placed in the snow the night before the blast, by morning it was damp and virtually harmless (Strana.ru, January 21). Nor is it clear what the terrorists were trying achieve. Only one candidate benefited directly from the terrorist attacks–President Dzasokhov (NNS.ru, January 21). By compromising the opposition, the unknown terrorists bolstered the incumbent’s image as a crime fighter and guarantor of a “stable Alaniya.” It is hard to imagine a better campaign on Dzasokhov’s behalf.