[QODLink]
Europe
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
Topics in this article
People
Country
Featured on Al Jazeera
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Tokyo government claims its homeless population has hit a record low, but analysts - and the homeless - beg to differ.
3D printers can cheaply construct homes and could soon be deployed to help victims of catastrophe rebuild their lives.
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
Featured
Booming global trade in 50-million-year-old amber stones is lucrative, controversial, and extremely dangerous.
Legendary Native-American High Bird was trained in ancient warrior traditions, which he employed in World War II.
Hounded opposition figure says he's hoping for the best at sodomy appeal but prepared to return to prison.
Fears of rising Islamophobia and racial profiling after two soldiers killed in separate incidents.
Group's culture of summary justice is back in Northern Ireland's spotlight after new sexual assault accusations.