Author: Mamuka Komakhia


On June 9, 2024, illegitimate parliamentary elections will take place in the occupied Tskhinvali region. The results of the “elections” will not affect the format of Tskhinvali relations with Moscow and Tbilisi, although they will impact internal political processes in the occupied region. It is noteworthy that the “Georgian issue” has become an important factor in the run-up to the elections.

The “Electoral” System

Illegitimate parliamentary elections are regularly held in the occupied Tskhinvali region. Following the end of the armed conflict in the Tskhinvali region in 1992, the first “elections” were held in 1994, and subsequent ones followed in 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014. The last “parliamentary elections” took place on June 9, 2019. The “Supreme Council,” elected during the Soviet period (1990), is referred to as the “parliament” of the first convocation, and the “parliament” elected on June 9, 2024, will be that of the 8th convocation.

In the “parliament, 17 “deputies” will be elected from single-mandate constituencies, and 17 “deputies” from the party lists according to the majoritarian-proportional electoral system. A total of 34 “deputies” will be elected for a 5-year term.

One “deputy” elected in one constituency can be either an independent candidate or a party nominee. The candidate with the most votes will win. There are nine single-mandate constituencies in Tskhinvali, and two each in the remaining four constituencies.

The remaining 17 “deputies” will be elected from the party lists. Only the party that overcomes the 7% electoral threshold will have a representative in “parliament”.

The 2024 “elections” will be held in a total of 75 polling stations, of which 71 are located in the Tskhinvali region, two in North Ossetia, and one each in Moscow and Sokhumi.

Results of the 2019 Elections

The current “parliament” was elected in 2019. In the “parliament” of the 7th convocation, in addition to the “deputies” elected from 17 single-member constituencies, 17 seats were distributed between five political parties:

  • United Ossetia Party – seven “deputies.” The party enjoys the support of the former de facto president Anatoly Bibilov, who is currently involved in Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine. He is also engaged in the internal political processes of the Tskhinvali region, and uses his participation in the Russian military aggression for election purposes.
  • People’s Party – four “deputies.” The party has enjoyed the support of the former de facto president Eduard Kokoity for many years. Kokoity mainly works in Russia, and was active in the Tskhinvali region prior to the elections.
  • Nykhas Party – three “deputies.” The party enjoys the support of the current de facto president, Alan Gagloyev.
  • Unity Party – two “deputies.” In recent years, the party has been an ally of the United Ossetia Party.
  • Communist Party – one “deputy.” The party has stable voters among the elderly population of the region who tend to be nostalgic for the Soviet period.

Following Gagloyev’s victory in the 2022 illegitimate “presidential elections” (Gagloyev defeated Bibilov in the second round), the speaker of the “parliament” was replaced and became Gagloyev’s party member. With this, Gagloyev’s influence over “parliament” increased, although the balance of power in that “parliament” does not allow the incumbent president to exercise complete control. In the upcoming “elections,” Gagloyev’s goal will be to establish complete control over the “parliament,” the absence of which will make it difficult for him to maintain political weight in the Tskhinvali region and in relations with Russia, as well as to fight for a second presidential term.

The Pre-Election Campaign and Political Alliances

The following political parties (in total, 12) have the right to participate in the “elections:” The Communist Party, the Unity Party, the People’s Party, the Fidibasta Party, the United Ossetia Party, the Unity of People Party, the Nykhas Party, the For Justice Party, the Iristoni Nog Faltar Party, the Iron Party, the Iri Farn Party, and the Development Party.

Residents of the Tskhinvali region and representatives of the diaspora use parties as a tool to assert themselves in the political life of the occupied region and to gain political influence. In this regard, interesting political processes can be observed in the run-up to the elections, with both the former de facto president and the one with “presidential” ambitions, attempting to achieve success in the “elections”.

“Patriots of Alanya” and Jambolat Tedeev

The most notable event in the pre-election period was the registration of the Patriots of Alanya Political Party in February 2024. Jambolat Tedeev, well-known in Russia and Georgia, is the ideological leader of the party. He is a member of the North Ossetian parliament and was the head coach of the Russian freestyle wrestling team in 2001-2012 and 2016-2022. Tedeev was born in the Tskhinvali region. On his initiative, a bronze statue of Putin was erected next to the Stalin monument in his native village of Tsorbisi.

Tedeev has long sought to establish himself in the political life of the Tskhinvali region. His “presidential” ambitions are also well known. In 2011, he tried to participate in the “presidential elections” in the Tskhinvali region, but was refused the right to register as a candidate. Tedeev instead supported Anatoly Bibilov’s opponent Alla Jioeva, who won, however, through the internal political crisis and Russian intervention, the results of the “elections” were annulled, and Tedeev was forced to leave the region.

Political Alliance with Old Opponents

Due to the fact that the Patriots of Alanya Party was registered just months before the elections, it will not be able to participate in the “elections,” as a year-in-advance registration is required. Therefore, in early April, Tedeev entered into a political alliance with the People’s Party. The purpose of creating this alliance is for the People’s Party to take advantage of Tedeev’s electoral resources, and for the candidates of the Patriots of Alania Party to receive places on the People’s Party’s electoral list.

The pairing came as a surprise to many, as it is believed that each party’s voters stand in conflicting political positions. Since 2009, the People’s Party has managed to achieve success in the “parliamentary elections” which was due to Kokoity’s influence, however, after forging an alliance with Tedeev’s party, the People’s Party is unlikely to receive Kokoity’s support. The rivalry between Tedeev and Kokoity has a long history.

The “Georgian Issue

The “Georgian issue” is also relevant in the upcoming “elections,” and is important, given both Georgian-Russian relations and the internal political context of the occupied region.

The Visit of a Government Official and a Message from Moscow

In February, Igor Maslov, the Head of the Directorate for Interregional Relations and Cultural Contacts with Foreign Countries in the Russian Presidential Administration,  who also supervises the occupied regions, visited Tskhinvali. Reportedly, his visit was related to the “elections.” Maslov’s main message was that the election campaign should not lead to an internal political crisis. It is also suspected in Tskhinvali that Maslov advised the de facto government not to take steps which the Georgian opposition could use against the Georgian Dream government in the parliamentary elections scheduled for October. Such steps include the revision/demarcation of the so-called border with Georgia, and the holding of a referendum on joining Russia. Recently, statements by the de facto leaders of the Tskhinvali region regarding the referendum were negatively assessed in Moscow. Based on the current dynamics of Georgian-Russian relations, the Kremlin views the referendum issue as a deterrent to improving relations between Tbilisi and Moscow.

The “Border” Issue, and “Citizenship” Deprivation

The “border” issue has already caused a lot of scandal in the Tskhinvali region. In February, it was announced that three members of the de facto parliament – Gary Muldarov, David Sanakoev and Jambolat Medoev – might be deprived of Russian citizenship. The “deputies” received a notification about this from the Russian Federal Security Service. The document named “actions that contribute to increased tension on the Russian border” as the reason for the decision. It does not specify the actions taken, though they are thought to be related to the establishment of a “border” with Georgia, as all three “deputies” spoke in favor of establishing a “state border” with Georgia.

The “deputies” associate Moscow’s decision with the active “Georgian lobby” in Russia. There is an opinion that any moves to define the “border” will lead to aggravation of relations with the Georgian side, which is not in Russia’s interests at this stage, since Moscow is trying to normalize relations with Georgia against the backdrop of the sanctions imposed by the West.

All three “deputies” are going to vote from the For Justice Party. However, through the use of various bureaucratic norms, they may not even be given the opportunity to participate in the “elections.” The scandal has given them the “mantle of martyr” and brought them fame. This is a challenge both for Gagloyev and for Russia, seeing an unprecedented step having been taken in deciding to deprive the MPs of Russian citizenship.

Securing the Support of Akhalgori’s Residents

In September 2022, shortly after becoming president, Gagloyev allowed people living in the occupied region, mostly ethnic Georgians, to cross the occupation line during the last ten days of each month. The border checkpoints (BCP) had been closed by Gagloyev’s predecessor, Bibilov, in September 2019, during the so-called Tsnelisi crisis, when a Georgian police post was opened in the village of Chorchane. Despite the provision of this benefit, bureaucratic problems arose in the process of obtaining the pass needed to cross the occupation line. The problem was solved after a district branch of Gagloyev’s Nykhas Party began issuing passes. This situation may help Gagloyev to gain supporters among the residents of Akhalgori.

In this regard, Gagloyev’s party is more promising for local residents. During her visit to Akhalgori in early April, the Nykhas Party Leader, Zita Besayeva, shared the election message box with district party members, and instructed them to promise the locals that the Odzisi/Mosabruni so called border check point will be opened, and permissions for daily movement of public and private transport on the occupation line will be issued if Nykhas wins. Gagloyev’s party has also taken other steps to attract ethnic Georgian voters, and three months ago started the issuance of “passports” for citizens of the “Republic of South Ossetia,” for IDPs and those local residents of the village of Tserovani (Village is located on the territory controlled by the central government of Georgia, where ethnic Georgians displaced from Akhalgori municipality after the August 2008 war live compactly) who have not yet received a “passport.” Gagloyev hopes that the new citizens of the republic, who are ethnic Georgians, will appreciate his step and vote for Nykhas. According to available data, about 800 people have already received a passport of the “Republic of South Ossetia”. If at least half of them support the majority candidate from Nykhas, this will be a guarantee of victory.

What to Anticipate?

The Domestic Political Context, and Preparation for the Presidential Elections

The next illegitimate “presidential elections” will take place in 2027, and the upcoming “parliamentary elections” are preparation for this. If these “parliamentary elections” fail, it will be difficult for Gagloyev to fight for a second term, and his political influence will also be weakened. He has had to replace “ministers” several times, some of them twice in a year. Gagloyev’s main competitors are the political teams of Tedeev and Bibilov, who are actively preparing for the “elections.” To reduce their electorate, Gagloyev has complicated the voting procedure for the citizens of the so-called “Republic of South Ossetia,” residing in North Ossetia where most of his opponents’ voters live. At the same time, he facilitated the creation of new loyal voters in the Akhalgori region.

The position of “president” can be held by a person who has permanently resided in the Tskhinvali region for the last 10 years. For a “deputy,” this residency term is 5 years. Although the residence permit of Tedeev and Bibilov does not allow them to participate in the “elections,” their parties success in the “parliamentary elections” is viewed in the context of the “presidential elections.” Bibilov wants to take revenge on Gagloyev for his defeat in the 2022 “presidential elections,” and Tedeev is trying to establish himself in the politics of the region. If successful, they will be able to control the “parliament” and limit Gagloyev’s power, which will give them an advantage in the 2027 illegitimate presidential elections. Bibilov and Tedeev will be able to participate in the “presidential elections” only if they receive 2/3 of the seats in the “parliamentary elections” and cancel the mandatory period of residency. However, obtaining such a majority will be difficult, so the heavyweights of Ossetian politics will have to be active behind the scenes and support candidates loyal to them.

Relations with Moscow

All parties in the Tskhinvali region are pro-Russian, and the political elite and local population support joining Russia. The results of the “elections” will not affect the format of relations with Moscow. The results of the “elections” can only be meaningful in the context of internal bureaucratic confrontations within the Russian government. Different influential groups in Russia support different political groups operating in the Tskhinvali region, and therefore everyone seeks to gain more influence over the processes taking place in the region by strengthening “their own” group.

Relations with Tbilisi

Today, relations between Tskhinvali and Tbilisi function at a minimum level, and are limited to periodic meetings in Geneva and Ergneti. In this regard, the results of the “elections” cannot affect the nature of the existing relations. Depending on the dynamics of relations between Russia and Georgia, there may be some changes, either positive or negative, in light of the “borderization policy,” illegal detentions, and citizen movement along the occupation line.