Mar 02, 2007

Abkhazia: Elections on the Horizon

Preparations for elections are underway as Abkhazians get ready to go to the polls on Sunday 4 March 2007 for National Assembly elections.

Below is an excerpt from an article published by The Tiraspol Times:

A total of 119 candidates will be running for 35 seats in the Abkhaz Parliament this Sunday: The elections to the National Assembly of the Republic of Abkhazia are scheduled for March 4, 2007.

More than 100 international election observers will follow the vote, with four MPs from Pridnestrovie being part of a monitoring delegation.

Abkhazia, located to the northwest of the Republic of Georgia, wants full independence and international recognition. Elections will be held based on the majoritarian system in 35 single-mandate constituencies.

Georgian media sources are reporting that the upcoming elections are marked by confrontation between supporters of Abkhaz leader Sergey Bagapsh and Vice-President Raul Khajimba – old rivals who contested for the presidency in 2004 elections. A power-sharing agreement between the two men in December 2004 put an end to a two-month standoff that was triggered after the disputed presidential elections. But a wide spectrum of opposition groups and candidates, from left to right, are entering the fray and making their voices heard. […]

International election observers are expected from a dozen countries around the world, including leading election monitoring missions made up of NGOs from Italy, Germany, France and several other European countries.

Opposition parties with strong following

In Abkhazia […] the vast majority of the opposition coincides with the government on the main goal: Independence. But beyond that, everything else is up for debate. And in Abkhazia, a strong opposition has been slamming the government in the run-up to the election.

A group of Abkhaz opposition MP candidates have unleashed criticism of Abkhaz leader Sergey Bagapsh for interfering in their election campaign and hence violating election code of the unrecognized republic, Abkhaz news agency Apsnipress reported on February 26.

19 opposition MP candidates running in the Abkhaz parliamentary elections scheduled for March 4 argue that Sergey Bagapsh intervened in the election campaign by criticizing several opposition MP candidates during a televised Q&A session on February 23.

During the televised press conference, Bagapsh launched into heavy criticism of opposition MP candidate Vladimir Arshba. Arshba is an opposition MP candidate running in one of Sokhumi’s single-mandate constituencies, and is seeen by his followers as a potential future presidential contender.

The main political movements competing will be United Abkhazia, Aitara (Revival), Amtsakhara (Signal Light) and others who support the Abkhaz president. They will have to compete with "Forum for National Unity," a broadbased opposition movement under which the followers of VP Raul Khajimba are united. The Abkhaz Communist Party, another opposition party, will also take part in parliamentary elections.

Disinformation from Georgia  

Predictably, Georgia has called the elections 'illegal' - since they are not held by Georgia's election authorities - and has refused to send observers. Georgia, which pursues an old territorial claim on Abkhazia, will not recognize the result. Instead, Georgia issued a statement yesterday claiming that the election will be chaotic and that fighting has broken out between political opponents. No such evidence exists and Abkhazia dismisses it as a feeble attempt at Georgian disinformation: […].

The peoples of Abkhazia and Georgia are different ethnically and linguistically. Georgians value freedom and independence very highly, and so do the Abkhazians. They have very little in common, besides a mutual wish for independence and freedom. […]

Participating in Sunday's vote in Abkhazia, the observers include representatives of parliaments and civil society organizations from Italy, Poland, France, Belgium, Germany, Northern Cyprus, Western Sahara, Jordan, Armenia, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia and other countries. Following their work, the teams of international observers will issue a joint statement for European mass media and international organizations.