South Ossetia "Votes For Independence"
I know what you're thinking: "Where the heck is South Ossetia?!". Well it's a tiny region in the Northern part of the nation of Georgia (which is in the Caucus mountains between Turkey and Russia.) Back in 1991, South Ossetian separatists fought a bloody war against Georgia and set up an independent government which controls most of the region to this day. Those of us in political science call South Ossetia a "de facto state", meaning that it governs itself as an independent country but no other nation recognizes it. So, yesterday's vote was actually a mere affirmation of an independent nation which already exists.
Here's the catch, there is no way to tell how fair this vote was. Since nobody recognizes the South Ossetian government, nobody bothered to monitor the election. My guess is that, like almost every other election in the former USSR, this vote was riddled with corruption. However, I would venture to say that the majority of South Ossetians do not want to be part of Georgia, especially those members of the younger generation who have never really been a part of Georgia to begin with.
Georgia refuses to even consider the idea of an independent South Ossetia, and that's a shame, bcause only when Georgia is willing to negotiate will the will of the South Ossetian people ever be heard. This referendum was probably so corrupt that Iranian elections would look clean in comparison, and the separatist government is run by a self-appointed president who may or may not care about democracy. That said, the PEOPLE of South Ossetia have a right to be heard, and based on my reading I would speculate that most of them DO favor the separatist plan for independence (and an eventual merge with Russia).
Let's face it, the artificial borders drawn by the USSR are not working. The people of South Ossetia are not ethnic Georgians, they are ethnic Ossetians - and they would probably be a lot happier of they were independent or united with their brethren in the Russian Province of North Ossetia. I am no supporter of the South Ossetian government, but I AM a supporter of South Ossetia's right to secede if its people chose to do so. It's high time that the rest of the world stops paying attention to Ossetian politics and starts focusing on the desires of Ossetian people.
Note: South Ossetia is actually the smaller of two de facto states within Georgia. The other, Abkhazia, is much better organized and has functioned as a successful independent state for over a decade. I may be unsure about the Ossetian situation, but I think that it is an absolute joke that the world community will not acknowledge Abkhazia's independence.