The new, internal passports have been around since 2016, but many have struggled to obtain them
As Abkhazia edges closer to the presidential election scheduled for August 25, local authorities have decided to expedite issuing internal passports to allow as many people as possible to vote.
Abkhazia’s interior ministry has ordered that passport agencies work seven days a week, citing an increase in the number of people who are applying to obtain a new passport. People who are ill or disabled can even have passports delivered to their door.
This is an important decision for Abkhazia, since many residents have not been able to get the new passport, even though it was introduced in 2016.
The decision to replace old passports was taken in response to the issue of ethnic Georgians residing in the Gal/i district who held both Georgian and Abkhaz passports; Abkhazia’s legislation only allows dual citizenship with Russia.
The issue became so politicised that it resulted in the early resignation of then-president Alexander Ankvab in 2014, under whose tenure Abkhaz passports were issued to Georgians. He was replaced by Raul Khajimba, whose term expires on 25 August.
The new law split Abkhazia in two groups – ethnic Abkhaz and everyone else.
Abkhaz do not have to prove to prove whether they are holders of Georgian citizenship or not – they are automatically entitled to citizenship, while non-Abkhaz are subject to many restrictions.
About 130,000 people have already received new Abkhaz passports – another 3,000 are ready for distribution.