The crushing of an apparently legitimate election victory in South Ossetia, a key client state of Moscow, could bring a fresh wave of unwanted attention to Russia's own problematic democracy.
A bizarre electoral upset in Russia's tiny protectorate of South Ossetia, a breakaway province of Georgia, has thrown the little republic into chaos and brought acute embarrassment to its sponsors in the Kremlin.
On the cusp of Russia's own crucial cycle of elections, the blatant crushing of an apparently legitimate election victory in a key client state of Moscow could bring a fresh wave of unwanted attention to Russia's own problematic democracy.
The trouble began last Sunday, when South Ossetia's official election commission declared former education minister and anticorruption outsider Alla Dzhioyeva decisively ahead in presidential elections, having won 57 percent of the votes with most of the ballots counted. The problem was that Ms. Dzhioyeva's opponent, Anatoly Bibilov, who was trailing far behind with 40 percent, had been personally endorsed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
On Tuesday the republic's Supreme Court met behind closed doors and declared the polls null and void, citing "irregularities" that have yet to be spelled out. The decision barred Dzhioyeva from participating in any future elections.
In a move that some Russian analysts say Moscow will come to regret, Russia's Foreign Ministry subsequently issued an official statement endorsing the annulment of the election results, saying that Russia favors maintaining a "calm and stable situation" in South Ossetia.