South Ossetia elections show Russia’s clout waning

Russia Presidential Press and Information Office

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev meets with Eduard Kokoity, president or South Ossetia, on Aug. 13, 2010. Kokoity, a Kremlin ally, backed Anatoliy Bibilov, Dzhioyeva’s main opponent in the 2011 presidential election.

Article Highlights

  • The failure of South Ossetia’s presidential election and the popularity of Dzhioyeva have favorable implications for US

    Tweet This

  • If Russia can’t secure victory for its preferred candidate in South Ossetia, then its influence has declined drastically

    Tweet This

  • The election turmoil in South Ossetia more than anything illustrates the Kremlin’s waning regional influence

    Tweet This

Officials in the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia, whose independence is recognized by Russia and only a handful of other countries, annulled the results of the territory’s presidential election earlier this week. The South Ossetian Supreme Court charged opposition candidate Alla Dzhioyeva with vague electoral violations and prohibited her from standing in a repeat presidential election rescheduled for March. Dzhioyeva — an anti-corruption crusader and former education minister — had an almost insurmountable 17 point lead over her rival, based on results from 74 of 85 precincts. She declared victory on Wednesday and announced that unless the Supreme Court accepts her appeal, the current government “will be [held] responsible for further developments.”

"The election turmoil in South Ossetia perhaps more than anything illustrates the Kremlin’s waning regional influence." --Daniel VajdicPolitical instability in a pseudo-state with a population of 60,000 doesn’t justify any substantial attention, and rigged and subsequently contested elections are a common occurrence in the former Soviet Union. But the failure of South Ossetia’s presidential election and the popularity of Dzhioyeva are indicative of broader trends that have significant, largely favorable consequences for the U.S. It’s remarkable that Dzhioyeva’s Kremlin-backed rival couldn’t secure an honest victory under free and fair conditions despite receiving a clear endorsement from Russian president Dmitry Medvedev. Moscow went to war with Georgia to “save” South Ossetia in 2008, recognized it as an independent country, and spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually subsidizing its budget and its virtually nonexistent economy.

The election turmoil in South Ossetia perhaps more than anything illustrates the Kremlin’s waning regional influence. Russia’s relations with Ukraine improved when Viktor Yanukovych became president but remain highly unstable below the surface. Ditto for Belarus. Minsk’s recent rapprochement with Moscow is the result of Aleksander Lukashenko’s international isolation, the country’s severe economic challenges, and its dependence on reduced natural-gas prices for survival — not Belarus’s genuine desire to improve ties.

The Kremlin’s “managed democracy” may be the favored model of corrupt, autocratic elites throughout the former Soviet Union, but this week’s events in South Ossetia demonstrate that the people of these countries prefer an unqualified form of democracy. If Russia can’t manage to secure victory for its preferred candidate in a neighboring protectorate, then its influence has declined much more drastically than previously thought.

Daniel Vajdic is a research assistant at AEI

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine

What's new on AEI

AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters
image A nation divided by marriage
image Teaching reform
image Socialist party pushing $20 minimum wage defends $13-an-hour job listing
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 20
    MON
  • 21
    TUE
  • 22
    WED
  • 23
    THU
  • 24
    FRI
Monday, October 20, 2014 | 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Warfare beneath the waves: The undersea domain in Asia

We welcome you to join us for a panel discussion of the undersea military competition occurring in Asia and what it means for the United States and its allies.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014 | 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters

AEI’s Election Watch is back! Please join us for two sessions of the longest-running election program in Washington, DC. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 | 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
What now for the Common Core?

We welcome you to join us at AEI for a discussion of what’s next for the Common Core.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, October 23, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Brazil’s presidential election: Real challenges, real choices

Please join AEI for a discussion examining each candidate’s platform and prospects for victory and the impact that a possible shift toward free-market policies in Brazil might have on South America as a whole.

Event Registration is Closed
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.