Officials in Georgia’s breakaway province of South Ossetia say an election to pick a new leader there will go to a runoff between a Kremlin-backed candidate and a former senior education official.
The election is not recognized by Georgia, which regards South Ossetia and neighboring Abkhazia as renegade regions despite Russian recognition of their unilateral declarations of sovereignty in late 2008.
South Ossetia’s Central Election Commission said Anatoly Bibilov, who is the current emergency situations minister with pro-Moscow leanings, and former Education Minister Alla Dzhioyeva each won around 25 percent of the vote on November 13.
The runoff is to be held in two weeks.
Alan Kotayev, deputy mayor of the region’s main city, Tskhinvali, was reportedly poised to place third, well behind the top two vote-getters.
South Ossetia has been led since 2001 by Eduard Kokoity, who is stepping down after two terms.
The election marks the first time South Ossetia has voted since Russia recognized its independence following Moscow’s 2008 war with Tbilisi.
Georgia lost de facto control of South Ossetia in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It failed to retake control over the region in the 2008 conflict, when most of the remaining ethnic Georgian population was driven out.
Aside from Russia, only two South American states and a tiny Pacific island nation recognize the region’s independence.
compiled from agency reports