Moscow: Voters in Georgia`s breakaway republic of South Ossetia were choosing a new president on Sunday for the first time since Georgia and Russia fought a brief war over control of the territory in 2008.
Russia and a handful of other countries have recognised South Ossetia`s independence, but the international community still considers it part of Georgia.
South Ossetia has been led since 2001 by Eduard Kokoiti, who has served two terms as president and is now stepping down.
Among those favoured to succeed him is Anatoly Bibilov, who heads South Ossetia`a emergencies services and has the support of Russia`s dominant pro-Kremlin party, the a news agency reported.
He and the other 10 candidates all favour a strengthening of ties with Russia, the agency said. They include government information committee chairman Georgy Kabisov, former education minister Alla Dzhioyeva and bread factory director Vadim Tskhovrebov.
The winner must receive more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid sending the election into a second round. South Ossetia has about 50,000 registered voters, including 16,000 who live or work across the Russian border in North Ossetia. Provisions were made for them to vote in South Ossetia, but the RIA Novosti news agency said a heavy snowstorm made it extremely difficult for them to cross the mountainous border.
Preliminary results are expected on Monday.