Outsider ahead in South Ossetia vote: initial results
A female candidate initially given little hope of victory was on Monday leading leadership elections in the rebel Georgian region of South Ossetia against the frontrunning pro-Kremlin figure.
In a major surprise, ex-education minister Alla Dzhioyeva polled 56.7 percent of the run-off against the pre-election favourite Anatoly Bibilov who won 40 percent, the central election commission said, quoting partial results.
Amid growing tensions over the vote, the supreme court of the little-recognised statelet earlier said results could not be published as Bibilov's party had alleged violations and it must investigate the claims.
Despite the ruling, the central election commission still went ahead and announced the latest results -- based on 74 out of 85 polling stations -- that showed Dzhioyeva was heading for victory.
The official local news agency quoted the head of the election commission as saying it had not been officially notified of the supreme court decision and had only heard about it on television.
Whoever wins in the end will not enjoy wide recognition as the "president" of South Ossetia, since the region is recognised as independent only by Russia and a handful of far-flung states after Moscow's 2008 war with Tbilisi.
The West, which insists South Ossetia is an integral part of Georgia, has condemned the elections as illegitimate.
Nonetheless the failure of Bibilov to sweep the run-off is a major turnaround given he was supported by outgoing leader Eduard Kokoity and had the backing of the Kremlin, South Ossetia's only significant patron.
In an apparent attempt to bolster Bibilov's position ahead of the vote, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met the candidate in southern Russia last week.
The size of the electorate in tiny South Ossetia is itself controversial.
While the rebel authorities say its total population is around 70,000, Georgian officials argue that the figure is no more than 15,000 due to the expulsion of ethnic Georgians and migration.
© 2011 AFP