The messenger logo

Political crisis in Georgian breakaway regions

By Temuri Kiguradze
Friday, May 29
Abkhazia and South Ossetia appear to be in deep political crisis, with various political forces fighting for power in these breakaway regions of Georgia.

De facto Vice-President of Abkhazia Raul Khajimba, who is considered to be a strong candidate for the Abkhazian Presidency at the elections in 2010, has announced his resignation. According to Khajimba there is a “deep governmental crisis” in the region now. Khajimba seems to be joining the opposition to current separatist leader Sergey Baghapsh and says that Baghapsh uses force against the opposition in Abkhazia. “If the opposition poses difficult, unresolved questions, this is its right. [Baghapsh’s] search for internal enemies is rude and irresponsible propaganda directed towards the division of society.”

Khajimba has accused Baghapsh of behaving in a “non-transparent” way when giving control over the Abkhazian-Georgian administrative border to Russian forces. He has also noted that the current de facto authorities are conducting “secret” negotiations to put Kodori Gorge, which was the only Abkhazian territory controlled by the Georgian central government until August 2008 conflict, under the control of international police forces. The opposition in Abkhazia also accuses Baghapsh of “selling” country to Russia. Baghapsh’s opponents state that the majority of Abkhazian strategic and economic facilities are owned by Russian citizens and that the de facto authorities are drafting a law which will allow Russians to purchase Abkhazian land. “The latest steps of the Government assure me that the authorities will do anything to keep their hands on the levers of power and will not consider public opinion,” Khajimba told journalists in Sokhumi on May 28.

South Ossetia, the other breakaway Georgian province, awaits Parliamentary elections on May 31. Representatives of the South Ossetian opposition have stated that the current separatist leader Eduard Kokoity is using “dirty tricks” to keep his party in power. Some opposition members have accused him of “stealing Russian money” destined for the rehabilitation of the region after the August 2008 conflict. On May 23, the main South Ossetian opposition parties announced their plan to create an “Anti-Kokoity” union, which would attract sacked officials and ethnic Ossetian businessmen working in Russia. “I can’t tolerate the gang headed by Kokoity which has usurped power in South Ossetia,” stated Moscow-backed businessman Albert Jussoev, announcing his own political ambitions in the separatist region. “A dictatorship is being established in South Ossetia right now and the President [Kokoity] and his brother are stealing Russian humanitarian aid and budget funds destined for rehabilitation,” said another Moscow-backed ethnic Ossetian, Jambulat Tedeev, who is the head coach of the Russian national wrestling team. The South Ossetian opposition have announced that they don’t hope to win the Parliamentary elections because they will be rigged, but promise to conduct protest rallies demanding the resignation of Kokoity and early Presidential elections.

Georgian conflict expert Malkhaz Chemia considers that the current political developments in both Georgian breakaway regions are backed by Russia, which is trying to strengthen its positions there. “Political protest in Abkhazia has a long history - back in 1999 there were some political groups protesting against the separatist Government supporting Russian expansion in Abkhazia. It seems that Khajimba wants to use this attitude to his advantage to take power in Sokhumi, however it’s not so likely that he will protect Abkhazian national interests if he does,” Chemia told The Messenger on May 28. He believes that Moscow is not too pleased with Baghapsh, who seems inert, and wants to replace him with Khajimba who will provide the Kremlin with full access to Abkhazian resources.

Malkhaz Chemia states that Russia wants to change Kokoity in South Ossetia for purely financial reasons. “The Kremlin will put in place a new so-called President who, unlike Kokoity, will not stop Russian money being spent the way Russia wants in South Ossetia,” the analyst maintains.