After a series of extraordinary events, including the alleged poisoning of the opposition leader, there is no clear-cut favorite in the elections." />

Abkhaz presidential elections promise to be unpredictable – despite voter apathy

After a series of extraordinary events, including the alleged poisoning of the opposition leader, there is no clear-cut favorite in the elections.

Presidential elections in Abkhazia are scheduled for August 25. 

So many strange events have taken place in Abkhazia since the beginning of the year – including an alleged attempted to poison the opposition leader – that now that the election campaign has begun, apathy has taken hold of the electorate.

There is no obvious favourite, and many in private conversations admit that they no longer know who to vote for, or if it’s even worth going to vote.

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Who are the candidates

10 people have been registered by the Central Election Commission.

In addition to the current president, Raul Khajimba, the following candidates have been announced: 

•Alkhas Kvitsinia, he was forced to replace the leader of the bloc of the opposition forces Aslan Bzhania, who was suddenly taken ill (according to the opposition – poisoned) several months back. 

•Oleg Arshba, he represents the other wing of the opposition, controlled by ex-President Alexander Ankvab.

•Former head of the Abkhaz special services, Astamur Tarba, who has returned to politics after a 15-year hiatus.

•MP Almas Japua, leader of the organisation Common Cause, which initially positioned itself as a “third force”.

•Former Deputy Prime Minister Shamil Adzinba.

•Former Interior Minister Leonid Dzyapshba.

Two more candidates – Astamur Kakalia and Astamur Otyrba – have only recently made their appearance in Abkhaz politics. They position themselves as fighters against corruption. 

The 10th candidate, Artur Ankvab, is known to few people.

Why so many candidates?

Abkhazia has never seen so many candidates come forward to run in presidential elections.

This is also true of the mood of protest that has recently appeared in Abkhaz society. 

There are no popularity ratings of any of the candidates. 

In the small republic, where the list of voters does not exceed 160,000 people, it is quite simple to learn the mindset of people. Politicians are talked about here everywhere – at work and at home, in the market and in numerous coffee shops, as well as at weddings and funerals.

The conclusion: the current elections are taking place with unprecedented apathy, when the majority of potential voters either do not know who to vote for or will not vote at all.

The most that the candidates can hope for is to make it into a second round of elections, after the first round is held on August 25. 

The distrust of the electorate, which tired of the empty promises of its political class, is perhaps the biggest problem for the participants in the current presidential race.

The burden of the intractable socio-economic problems and the criminal situation; the uncontrolled corruption of the bureaucratic apparatus – all this made the average voter extremely distrustful.

Earlier, iconic Abkhaz politicians had many supporters. These politicians could even manage without an action programme in the elections, as their ‘fans’ would come out either way.

That is what happened in former elections. 

But the age of ‘portrait’ democracy – when it was the struggle of individual groups and persons and not ideas that were competing for the vote of the electorate – has seemingly come to an end. 

Now, the electorate is not so ready to give its vote to an individual simply because they have a tie around their neck. 

Now, candidates cannot simply count on the votes of their fans – especially if they don’t have a political program that touches all aspects of life in the republic. 

But not even a political programme means much – the incredulous electorate must also be convinced that this programme will not remain only a set of good wishes, but will actually be implemented. And only then the candidate will have a chance.

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