Oct 30, 2001

Upcoming elections in Abkhazia

The Abkhaz minority is determined to actively practice their right to self-determination through the organizing of parliamentary elections on 24 November 2001. Presidential elections have already taken place in March of this year

The outcome of previous elections held in October 1999, were declared null and void by the Georgian government as well as the international community, creating a high level of controversy surrounding the upcoming elections. Their criticism emphasised the so-called aggressive and intolerable nature in which past elections were conducted by the Abkhaz authorities. This is ironic and disputable since the same international community, particularly the OSCE as a member thereof, in the past also stated that presidential and parliamentary elections in Georgia had been characterised by

"Cases of harassment of political rallies and individuals by security organs, including the detention of some candidates. Opposition groups complained that they did not receive the campaign funding that had been promised to them. Internally displaced persons created some instances of confusion, as they had different procedures of voting. According to the law they had the right to vote in two of the three ballots, but in some cases demanded a third ballot" (OSCE monitor group on the 1995 elections in Georgia.)

If the OSCE has some negative notions of the conduct of parliamentary elections in Georgia, why would the same organization, and for that matter the international community then respect and follow the Georgian opinion on elections in Abkhazia?

It is evident that the political and socio-economic conditions in both Georgia and the Abkhaz region are a far cry from a politically stable and democratic situation conducive to free and fair elections. What else does one expect when Abkhaz-Georgian relations are clouded by complex and deep-rooted factors such as civil war, mistrust, corruption, military threats, and socio-economic decline. While Abkhazia's autonomy, based on a confederate treaty-based relationship with Georgia, was officially recognised, the Abkhazian elite and people felt constantly threatened by a possible "Georgianization" of their national identity. It is therefore of immense importance to organize their own elections. Furthermore, the Sukhumi government has facilitated the establishment of a Central Electoral Commission, taking great care in reflecting the multi-ethnic composition of the Republic of Abkhazia. For not only Abkhazians live there, but also ethnic Greeks, Estonians, Georgians, Russians and Armenians. The Peoples Assembly of the Republic of Abkhazia is considering the nomination and election to the Commission of, for example, Messrs Grant Altunian, an ethnic Armenian, Eleonora Kozmidi, an ethnic Greek, and Vladimir Kunitsky, an ethnic Russian. Other elected members are: Boris Gurgulia, chairperson of the Writers Union of Abkhazia; Batal Tabagua, Minister of Justice; Astamur Appba, lawyer in the President's Office; Khukhut Bganba, deputy mayor of Sukhum; D. Dzidzaria, deputy head of the Gudauta region's administration, and S. Bganba, mayor of Gagra.

Regardless of expected criticism and possible restrictive measures by the Georgian government and the international community, Abkhazia believes in the validity of its existence as a free Republic and will most certainly not be daunted by any such action. The UNPO stands behind this view and wishes to draw attention to the fact that in 1918 an independent Abkhazian State was established with the necessary blessing. It existed for only 40 days, but the point is, it can be achieved again. The possibility of UNPO monitoring the November elections is currently being discussed.