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South Ossetia Faces Runoff as Georgia Calls Elections a Farce

The breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia will hold a runoff after no candidate received the 50 percent of votes needed to win yesterday’s presidential election, which Georgia called a “farce.”

The former local head of the KGB security service, Leonid Tibilov, got 42.5 percent while David Sanakoyev garnered 24.6 percent after all votes had been counted in the capital, Tskhinvali, Rustavi-2 television reported today. A second round of voting will take place on April 8.

Russia routed Georgia’s army in a five-day war in August 2008 over South Ossetia, later recognizing its independence as well as that of Abkhazia, another separatist region. Georgia broke off diplomatic ties with Russia that year. A disputed presidential ballot in South Ossetia was annulled by a court in November after victory for opposition candidate Alla Dzhioyeva, who the Pirweli news agency said boycotted this vote.

South Ossetia “staged a farce,” Georgia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze told reporters today in the Black Sea nation’s capital, Tbilisi. “No one will recognize these elections, no matter who wins.”

Only Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Tuvalu and Nauru recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which Georgia maintains Russia occupied after the 2008 conflict. Abkhazia will hold a second round of voting after a March 10 ballot to elect its 35-member Parliament.

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