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Abkhazia: five major political events in 2016

All five connected with the confrontation between authorities and opposition

Permanent confrontation between authorities and opposition came as the trademark of the political season in Abkhazia in 2016.

All through the year the block of opposition forces has been making life difficult for President Raul Khadjimba, insisting on his early resignation.

The Abkhazian leader did not plan to resign and struggled to reach an agreement with the opponents.

Confrontation: short chronicles

Episode 1. Storm of the Interior Ministry office

The events were initiated by the opposition Amtskhra party congress, organized by the Sukhum philharmonic hall on July 5.

The congress, more reminding one of a rally, demanded, that the referendum on trust to Raul Khadjimba, initiated by the opposition itself, be held in autumn.

The opposition also demanded the resignation of the Interior Minister Leonid Dzyapshba, who had banned his employees from voting in the referendum.

While the opposition delegates were meeting with the head of state to describe their demands, the rallying mob moved to to the Interior Ministry office.

An off-road car removed the gates, and people flooded the yard, throwing stones. The militiamen failed to contain them. The attackers did not enter the building, though.

By 11 p.m. vice-president Vitaly Gabniya arrived to the ministry office and read out loud the presidential order to temporarily discharge Leonid Dzyapshba of fulfillment of duties. The crowd has slowly dispersed. Raul Khadjimba though declined to change the referendum timing.  

Episode 2. Referendum

From the very beginning the idea to make the president resign through referendum looked unrealistic. Making the president resign legally is possible only either through impeachment or in case he voluntarily files the resignation request.

Anyway, the question of mass participation in the referendum has seized to be of any importance after the opposition block had called for the boycott in the wake of the plebiscite. The referendum turned out to be useless for the authorities and opposition alike. There was constitutional way to discharge it, though.

The  result: about $140 000 spent in vain, Guinness nomination for the most failed referendum (1% of voters), and my condolences to Samuel Beckett and other founding fathers of the absurd theatre, who have not lived long enough to watch the Abkhazians boycotting their own referendum.

Episode 3. Government resignation

Despite the opposition initiative to organize the referendum has failed,  president Khadjimba still felt himself vulnerable. Another attempt to find common language with the opponents led him to the idea of the government with broader political representation.

As the result prime-minister Arthur Mikvabiya was discharged of the duties, and his successor Beslan Barshits, having received the mandate from the president, initiated the unofficial negotiations  with various Abkhazian political forces, including the opposition block.

After two weeks of negotiations the opposition finally rejected the proposed posts.

Episode 4. Popular convention from opposition

Having failed to find common language with president Khadjimba, the opposition Amtsakhra party at the next congress demanded the early presidential resignation. In case the president rejects the ultimatum the opposition threatened him with a popular convention. After Raul Khadjimba had rejected the proposal, the date was named – December 15.

The opposition supporters gathered a block away from the presidential residence. The presidential supporters gathered in the close vicinity to the residence on that exceptionally cold day. The two crowds were divided by the militiamen, sent on duty unarmed, as ordered by the Interior Minister Aslan Kabakhiya

Simultaneously with the rallies negotiations between  the opposition and the presidential representatives started, brockered by the parliament and Merab Kishmariya, the Defense Minister.

After the negotiations were over, the opposition representatives went back to their supporters. Aslan Bzhaniya, the opposition leader said, the head of state proposed to the opposition the posts of deputy prime- minister, Attorney General, two seats in the Constitutional Court and four seats in the new Election Committee.

By 3 p.m., having accepted the compromise proposals, the crowd started to disperse.

Episode 5. A compromise?

Several days later in calmer atmosphere the agreements were put on paper and signed.

In accordance with the agreement, four opposition representatives in the Election Committee and two in the Constitutional Court  have been already approved by the parliament. In exchange the opposition will not demand the early resignation of the president.

The leaders of two opposition organizations – Leonid Lakerbaya (Aytayara) and Irina Agrba (Women in Politics) refused to join the compromise  and intend to insist on the early resignation.

The opinions, expressed in the article, reproduce the author’s terminology and views and not necessarily reflect the position of the editorial staff

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