The Abkhaz opposition’s leader is in the hospital, and the elections will take place in just three months
The severe and sudden illness of the leader of the Abkhazian opposition Aslan Bzhania and the assumption that he was poisoned has become the dominant feature of the upcoming presidential elections in Abkhazia in July.
Aslan Bzhania has been in a serious condition in a hospital in Moscow since April 19.
Two days after his hospitalization, two of his bodyguards were brought there as well with similar issues, though in better condition.
There is no guarantee that Bzhaniya will recover before the presidential election.
Nevertheless, the united opposition has gone all in and announced that it would not abandon Aslan Bzhania as its presidential candidate.
The main issue of discussion today is doubts concerning Bzhania’s official diagnosis – viral pneumonia.
Some opposition officials have said ‘diplomatically’ that they do not have ‘complete information.’ But the majority in the opposition openly say that Aslan Bzhania was poisoned.
“I am one of those who accompanied Bzhania to Moscow. He did not have the appearance of a sick man. I saw him when he returned from Moscow [ed. and he was immediately sent by another plane to an intensive care unit at a Moscow hospital]”, says Ramaz Jopua, deputy chairman of the political council of political party Amtsakhara.
“I am convinced that he was poisoned. There is nothing to hide. However, we have no evidence. May God grant him a return to health unharmed, and when he returns, much will become clear.”
The opposition believes that Bzhania could have been poisoned in order to prevent him from participating in the presidential race, as much of the public considers him to be the favourite.
“If someone interferes with the return of Aslan Bzhania and his participation in the elections, we reserve the right to hold protest rallies. We are preparing for the elections, and we are ready for this – because we see that the situation is worsening”, said a colleague of Aslan Bzhania, MP Dmitry Dbar.
Aslan Bzhania has been in intensive care for two weeks now. His respiratory system is weak and he cannot speak. His bodyguards have been discharged, but there are no predictions as to when he will get better.
Was he poisoned – or is the opposition inflating a scandal to get votes in the elections?
The opposition’s explanation of events
The poisoning explanation has become the main theme of the campaign season for the election of the President of Abkhazia, which officially starts on May 21. But the attitude of the authorities and the opposition is completely juxtaposed.
Opposition leaders held a special press conference, where they announced that Bzhania had been poisoned. There was also a hearing on this explanation in parliament, however, most questions remained without answers.
The situation around Aslan Bzhania’s illness continues to look very strange. The diagnosis of “viral pneumonia” became known the day after his hospitalization, but the source of information is unclear: an ‘Association of Abkhaz Doctors of the city of Moscow’, the existence of which no one has ever heard of.
The authorities’ explanation
Representatives of the Ministry of Health of Abkhazia did not carry out their investigation of the causes of the disease of the Abkhaz politician and refer to medical confidentiality and professional ethics.
The authorities and their supporting political organizations believe that the opposition is deliberately exacerbating the situation on the eve of the presidential election.
“Having no real grounds and arguments, they [representatives of the opposition] make statements about the possible poisoning of the MP. There are obvious speculations of individual politicians on the health problem of Aslan Bzhania”, the statement of the pro-presidential party Forum of National Unity says.
In fact, the opposition in the upcoming presidential election has gone all-in, since there are no guarantees that by the beginning of the official campaign he will be able to recover. And in this case there will be no opposition candidate at the elections at all.
A relative of Aslan Bzhania, chairman of the Sukhum city assembly Konstantin Pilia, says that Aslan Bzhania will soon be transferred from intensive care to a regular ward – but then rehabilitation will be needed. He says the procedures will be carried out “in Russia or abroad.”
If Bzhania’s rehabilitation process is delayed, the opposition will most likely insist on postponing the elections to a later date. However, the president and the parliament are unlikely to agree to such a proposal, since the date of the elections has already been determined and set for July 21.
However, the opposition probably has a backup plan, which will be reported at the last moment. At least, in the opposition environment there are several figures who previously ran for president, including former chairman of the Central Election Commission and now a member of parliament, Batal Tabagua, and the former deputy prime minister, Beslan Eshba.
The telegram channel “Abkhazia, intrigue, investigations” has already conducted a survey. Most respondents said that in the event that Bzhania could not participate in the elections, they would prefer to see Batal Tabagua as a candidate.