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Presidential elections in occupied Abkhazia

By Messenger Staff
Friday, December 11
Russia is playing a game which is called 'independent Abkhazia'. So far it is not winning this game from the foreign relations point of view, but the game has internal dimension as well.

Before Moscow grants Sokhumi autonomy within the Russian Federation it wants its puppet regime to play at being independent. In reality occupied Abkhazia has been transformed into a big military base with a few recreation zones and the same can be said about the Tskhinvali region as well. The Kremlin has already started digesting Abkhazian territory from the economic and demographic point of view, as more than 60% of Abkhazia’s budget is now supplied by Russia, all its law enforcement bodies are financed by Russia and all its economic levers are in Moscow’s hands. This is the reality of 'independent Abkhazia'.

Yet in these circumstances so-called 'Presidential elections' are to be held there on December 12. The winner might be called President, but of what? Former Abkhaz Minister of the Interior in the pro-Georgian legal Government of the region, Levan Kiknadze, thinks that despite the negative attitude of the Abkhaz population to it the Kremlin will have no problem finding a 'legal' way of eventually joining these territories to Russia. But first it needs to conduct 'show elections'.

There are five candidates for the Presidency, but the major ones are the incumbent Sergey Bagapsh, his former Vice-Premier Raul Khajimba and businessmen Beslan Butba. Analysts think that Bagapsh has the best chance. Significantly, during previous elections Georgia indirectly supported Bagapsh and most of the Georgian population of the Gali district voted for him. However this did not make their lives any easier.

The idea that 'elections in Abkhazia' have any validity at all is itself very dubious. In reality this part of Georgia is almost empty of population. 20 years ago, before the conflict started, 550,000 people lived there, but more than 300,000 of these, mainly Georgians, have left. Many have fled to different countries, most to Russia or other CIS states. Now there are around 160,000 people of voting age left in Abkhazia. The separatist regime states that 146,121 people have taken an Abkhazian passport, and under the Abkhaz election code only people with these worthless passports can take part in Abkhaz elections. There are around 14,000 people in the Gali region of voting age, but only around 3,500 have Abkhazian passports. When they vote the holders of these Abkhaz passports will have a special stamp put in them and will have various problems in the future if they do not have this stamp. They will not be promoted in state institutions and so on.

Under these circumstances the campaign for the 'Presidency' is in fact a fight for territory between different clans. Analysts think that Moscow still supports Sergey Bagapsh because The Kremlin prefers to deal with a person it already knows. As acting President Bagapsh is also able to use administrative resources for his own purposes. Meanwhile the confrontation aggravates, with Beslan Butba already complaining that he faces some difficulties in his business and every side preparing their challenges and excuses if the results do not go their way. .

Analysts think that Bagapsh will lose only if there is a second round of elections, as this would consolidate and unite the opposition. So he will try to secure victory in the first round, but inevitably the opposition will then declare the elections rigged. Much will ultimately depend on who Moscow backs, and this can never be stated with any certainty. Whoever expresses the greatest loyalty to The Kremlin between now and the final ballot will be the winner.