Georgia’s separatist Russian-occupied South Ossetia region will hold parliamentary elections today to elect 34 lawmakers for five-year terms.
Incumbent President Anatoly Bibilov’s United Ossetia party currently holds a 60% majority and is the firm favourite to continue ruling a nation that is only recognised by four countries, including Russia.
Since the 2008 Russo-Georgian war, South Ossetia has been all but officially annexed by Russia. In 2017, a referendum found 80% support for changing the official name of the region to match the North Ossetia-Alania province on the Russian side of the border. Meanwhile, Mr Bibilov, like the majority political opinion in his party, supports the full Russian annexation of South Ossetia.
Expect further efforts towards full integration in the years ahead even if formal annexation is not in the cards. Specifically, South Ossetians seek no border controls and free movement into Russia and vice-versa. However, unlike Crimea, Russia has not shown inclinations towards full annexation.
Further integration would antagonise the already cool but improving relations between Russia and Georgia but annexation would sever ties and risks further international sanctions on Moscow. Russia likely prefers the status quo despite ongoing integration. This keeps Moscow in the hunt to influence Georgia against joining NATO.
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John is a Senior Analyst with an interest in Indo-Pacific geopolitics. Master of International Relations (Australian National University) graduate with study focus on the Indo-Pacific. Qualified lawyer (University of Auckland, NZ) with experience in post-colonial Pacific & NZ legal systems.