A former KGB chief in Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia finished on top in a presidential election, but without the majority necessary to claim victory in the first round, election officials said Monday.
Leonid Tibilov will face 35-year-old presidential human rights commissioner David Sanakoyev in a runoff on April 8. It will be the fourth attempt to elect a president in five months.
Tibilov won 42 percent of the vote to Sanakoyev's 25 percent in Sunday's election among four candidates.
South Ossetia has close ties with Russia, which recognized it as an independent state after the 2008 Russian-Georgian war and still has troops there. Those ties are expected to remain close no matter who becomes president of the province, which has a population of about 50,000.
South Ossetia first tried to elect a new president in November. Former education minister Alla Dzhioyeva appeared to have beaten Anatoly Bibilov, the choice of the Kremlin and the outgoing leader, in the second round, but the results were disputed and a local court ordered a new vote.
Backed by thousands of protesting supporters, Dzhioyeva claimed victory anyway and set her inauguration for Feb. 9. The inauguration was thwarted when police raided her headquarters that day and attempted to take her out for questioning. Dzhioyeva's blood pressure soared during the raid, her staff said, and she was hospitalized in serious condition. She was released only several days ago.
South Ossetia broke away from Georgia in a war in the early 1990s. Spiraling tensions between pro-Russian separatists and the Western-leaning Georgian government triggered the brief war in 2008. Only a handful of other countries have followed Russia in recognizing South Ossetia's independence, while a Georgian economic blockade and misappropriation of lavish Russian funds triggered inflation and left many unemployed.