South Ossetia was the scene of protests recently after the breakaway province’s high court invalidated the results of a presidential election in which the Russian-backed candidate, Anatoly Bibilov, was defeated. In an email interview, Lincoln Mitchell, an expert on post-Soviet democracy at Colombia University, discussed South Ossetia’s disputed elections.
WPR: What is the immediate background to the post-election crisis in South Ossetia?
Lincoln Mitchell: South Ossetia is a small polity viewed as independent by Russia, seen as part of Georgia by most of the world, including Europe and the U.S., and in reality almost entirely controlled by Russia and dependent upon Russian money and security for its survival. In this context, the inability of the Russian-supported candidate, Anatoly Bibilov, to win the campaign for president of South Ossetia is quite significant. It suggests that Russia cannot effectively assert control even in a place like South Ossetia, which can generously be described as a Russian client.