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South Ossetia holds election
Vote expected to strengthen breakaway Georgian province's pro-Russin president.
Last Modified: 31 May 2009 18:25 GMT
The election sees four parties competing
for 34 seats in parliament [EPA]

Residents of Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia have cast their ballots in parliamentary elections.

The vote, which took place in the Russian-backed territory on Sunday, is expected to strengthen Eduard Kokoity, South Ossetia's Moscow-friendly president.

The president's critics have called for a boycott of the vote, saying he is seeking a landslide victory to pave the way for constitutional amendments that would strengthen his grip on power.

South Ossetia declared independence after Georgia's five-day war with Russia on the territory in August last year, but only Russia and Nicaragua have recognised it.

About 50,000 South Ossetians were eligible to vote in the elections and polling stations have been set up in Russia for expatriates and refugees who fled the region during the war.

'Completely illegal'

Four parties are competing for the 34 seats in parliament but the central election commission has barred the only two parties not loyal Kokoity.

Alan Gassiyev, an opposition leader, called the polls "completely illegal".

"I plan to sit at home. There's nothing we can do," he said.

The opposition also accuse the president of embezzling funds allocated for restoration of infrastructure destroyed in the war.

Kokoity has rejected the accusations against him as Georgian propaganda.

'Maturity test'

The president pledged they would be carried out strictly in accordance with law, calling the polls a "maturity test for the small independent state".

"At 10am [06:00 GMT] I can already say there's a very high turnout," he said on Sunday.

Polls were scheduled to close at 8pm local time (16:00 GMT), with the first results expected two hours later.

Most world powers consider South Ossetia as part of Georgia, but Tbilisi lost control over the region in a war in the early 1990s as the Soviet Union fell apart and many South Ossetians feel closer to Russia.

Source:
Agencies
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