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Abkhazia after Bagapsh

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, June 1
The sudden death of Abkhazia’s de facto President Sergey Bagapsh turned the breakaway region of Georgia's attention to snap presidential elections. Of course the results of these elections will not challenge Russia’s presence in the region but possible confrontation between the different clans claiming leadership in Abkhazia could create some unwanted surprises for the Russians. De facto PM of Abkhazia Sergey Shamba stated that the presidential elections in Abkhazia will be held according to the democratic norms and no forces, in particular from Georgia, will influence the decision of the Abkhaz people.

Of course whoever is victorious in the presidential race will become endorsed by Moscow. Moreover all the possible candidates will have to receive Russia’s consent. But still to safeguard itself both the Abkhazians and Russians have started speculating about possible interference from the Georgian side suggesting that Georgians will be trying to introduce some kind of discord in the political elite of Abkhazia.

Georgian analysts meanwhile exclude such an eventuality. The major reason for that is that the Georgian state has no substantial levers to act accordingly. As analysts suggest in Georgia the presidential elections in Abkhazia will be held in a controversial environment. Different clans will be confronting each other in the race for receiving power. As it is suggested they are already confronting each other in Abkhazia, each clan having its own lobby in the Kremlin. Therefore presumably major decisions will be taken in Moscow rather than in Abkhazia itself. There are three possible candidates for presidency whose names have been discussed ever since 2010 when the information about president Bagapsh having cancer was released. One of the most realistic candidates for presidency is acting president and former vice president Alexander Ankvab who has solid administrative resources. The second candidate is PM Sergey Shamba, one of the most influential and active political figures in the area. His chances are quite strong as he is mostly controlled from Russia. The third candidate is Raul Khajimba, the Russian KGB officer who challenged the late Bagapsh during the 2005 presidential elections.

Some forces in Abkhazian policy have an illusion that they can really receive independence, that they can distance themselves from Russia and balance the situation through cooperation with Turkey. Obviously such kind of ideas irritate Moscow. Russian leaders express their deep sorrow for the death of the Abkhaz president; however it should be mentioned that during the last months of Bagapsh's life there was some serious controversy between Russia and Abkhazia. There was the issue of giving certain parts of the territory to Russia as well as the issue of real estate properties for Russian citizens. The Kremlin was particularly irritated by the slogans of returning to Abkhazia the descendants of Abkhaz muhajirs who were ousted from Abkhazia during the Russian empire about a century ago. One way or another in three months time breakaway Abkhazia will have a new president though not a legal one according to Georgia and the overwhelming majority of the international community. Georgia has to be ready for all possible developments.