Tension before the so called Presidential elections in Abkhazia
By Messenger Staff
Thursday, August 25On August 26 Abkhazia is holding so called snap Presidential elections which follows the sudden death of the de-facto leader of breakaway Abkhazia just a couple of months ago. Now there are three candidates confronting each other in these elections although none of the parties are likely to change the status quo, particularly the “foreign policy” of the illegal administration. Any of those three candidates can consider themselves pawns of Russia. However, the winner can reap personal benefits from the position, even if the territory will not.
The first candidate is the acting President after the death of Sergey Bagapsh, his vice-President Alexander Ankvab, then comes so called Prime Minister Sergey Shamba and the third is the opposition's Raul Khajimba. Observers in Abkhazia say that the situation in the region currently could not be called pre-election campaigning but rather it is a confrontation between different clans. Their first step was to please the Kremlin and accordingly each of them is supported in the Kremlin by their lobbyists.
Moscow meanwhile, as usual, in the most hypocritical way states that it will not interfere in the elections as they are held in an “independent” state. Of course Moscow has its own interests, plans and levers to influence the results. One thing is certain; any serious candidate must give promises of loyalty to Russia. Of course their northern patron prefers a leader in Abkhazia who is the most loyal and who wouldn’t create any problems for the Russian interests in the region. Nobody can doubt that Abkhazian policy will be in harmonious compliance with Russian demands and orders. Whoever fits these requirements, is the most desirable candidate for the position of the leader of the breakaway region.
There are some rumors and allegations that the previous leader Sergey Bagapsh died so unexpectedly in Moscow because he made some steps to return some Abkhazian refugees, most of whom were of Muslim ethnicity. He also created some obstacles for the granting of Russian citizens with property rights in the Abkhazian territory. In reality most of ethnic Abkhaz population doesn’t like the idea of their land plots being possessed by anyone including the Russians. But for Moscow the Abkhaz population are ordinary citizens of Russia as most of them hold Russian passports and therefore - Russian citizenship. According to this logic any Russian citizen should be able to buy property there. The Abkhaz however understand that in the current situation the land in Abkhazia could be purchased by interested business groups from Russia extremely cheaply and therefore deprive the local population of the right to conduct business and being the boss in the territory. Ultimately Russian interests are simply to secure the process of integration of this territory into the Russian federation.
Meanwhile the election campaign in Abkhazia can at times resemble criminal clan fighting. One should remember that in 2004 during the previous elections there was almost armed confrontation in Abkhazia. Of course Moscow does not like this. This time the situation is more sophisticated. For these reasons a statement was made by former Georgian Minister of Defense Tengiz Kitovani [now residing in Russia] who was leading Georgian military groups into the conflict in Abkhazia. His aim was to discredit one of the candidates Ankvab allegedly to secure the victory of Russian favorite Sergey Shamba.
There is an interesting situation from an ethnic point of view as well: all candidates are of Abkhaz ethnicity however the Abkhaz population is not the majority in the region as there are some Georgians, Armenians, Russians and other nationalities within the territory. Most of the Georgian population does not possess so called Abkhaz passports; therefore they cannot participate in the elections. Some Georgians however already hold Abkhaz passports to avoid any complications. The Georgian population in Abkhazia is mostly interested in opening the administrative border between the rest of Georgia and its breakaway region but the Abkhaz influence on this matter is minimal as Russians control the border.