Challenges faced by the new president of Abkhazia
Aslan Bzhania was sworn in as the newly elected president of Abkhazia on April23.
As an opposition leader, for years he has consistently, systematically, and, importantly, convincingly, criticized the government of his predecessor Raul Khadjimba.
Now Abkhaz voters have entrusted Bzhania to rectify the situation – to pull Abkhazia out of the deadlock, which has drowned in a chronic crisis with a whole bunch of diseases.
Let’s leave aside election promises. Only a naive person can not notice they are just rituals. The entire experience of the institution of the presidency in Abkhazia shows that words are often not backed up by further actions.
Maybe that is why Abkhazia too often chooses a new leader.
On January 9, 2020, a group of activists and the opposition stormed the presidential palace and demanded the resignation of President Raul Khadjimba, who was re-elected just a few months earlier, on September 8, 2019. On the same day, the Supreme Court declared the results of those elections invalid, and on January 12 Khajimbaa announced his resignation and re-elections were called.
Surely Aslan Bzhania at the time of the election had his own real plan of action, with which, perhaps, only his inner circle was acquainted. Or maybe he decided not to prematurely open up about his plan or strategy to anyone.
Be that as it may, this plan now needs to be either rewritten urgently or written off completely.
Abkhazia, after the coronavirus pandemic invaded the world, has changed.
While preparing for the elections on March 22, 2020, this problem for presidential candidates did not exist. Everyone thought: “Well, quarantine has been introduced in China. By the time this virus reaches us, the world will have time to cope with this misfortune.”
Wrong. The world failed, and even when it does come up with a way to handle this, it will take a very long time to dig ourselves out of the consequences of the pandemic.
The coronavirus hasn’t made much of an appearance so far in Abkhazia – there are still only three recorded cases. But the economic damage has already been colossal.
The borders are closed, tourists, and this is the main source of income, no. Manufacturing and service enterprises have come to a stand still.
The budget of Abkhazia has never experienced such disasters. Revenue stands at zero, there are just expenses. How to pay salaries to state employees and pensions – no one knows.
The people are slipping further into poverty every day. The only line that could be observed the day before the inauguration of the president is the line to the pawnshop.
The magic Russian wand is also likely to fail. Oil prices have fallen so much that Russia will have to cope with her own problems.
So Abkhazia will have to learn to rely only on itself in this difficult period.
Even if by the summer the epidemic goes into decline, and Abkhazia, under the pressure of difficult economic circumstances, reopens its border for Russian tourists, it will not become easier.
The probability that coronavirus would enter massively with tourists in the republic is almost one hundred percent. One does not even want to guess about the ability of the health system to cope with this problem. It will just crash.
You cannot envy Aslan Bzhania. He is surrounded by traps.
An impracticable budget, impoverished people at the same time as rising unemployment and the prospect of a surge in the criminal situation.
And the environment will surely be old-fashioned to insistently demand “bread” places and other privileges, saying: “Otherwise, why did we support you?”
All will demand something. And the resources are zero.
The situation when the government was perceived as new opportunities for officials is over.
Now, in order to rectify the situation, authority must become a burden, a duty. And the president personifying this system of governance becomes a kamikaze, a man who sacrifices himself for the well-being of his citizens and the state.
Otherwise, the repetition of the story of the overthrow of his predecessor, Raul Khadjimba, can not be avoided by Aslan Bzhania.
Who is Aslan Bzhania
The newly elected president, Aslan Bzhania, is 57 years old.
He comes from the village of Tamysh, in the Ochamchirsky district of Abkhazia, where he is still a registered resident, although he has long been living in Sukhumi.
His father was a school teacher, and his grandfather Ashkhangeri Bzhania is one of the most famous supercentenarians in the history of Abkhazia. He lived to be 147 years old.
The famous English writer John Priestley, who came to Abkhazia in the middle of the 20th century, wrote about Ashkhangeri Bzhaniya with admiration.
Aslan Bzhania is an intelligence officer. He headed the State Security Service during the administrations of Sergey Bagapsh and Alexander Ankvab (from 2009 to 2014).
He was a candidate in the previous presidential election in 2019, but a month before the start of the presidential race, in April 2019, he was poisoned with heavy metals. He was taken to a clinic in Moscow in critical condition. Two weeks later, he was transferred to Berlin, where he was treated until the end of the year.
In his stead, leader of the Amtsakhara party Alhas Kvitsinia represented the opposition in the race, and lost to Raul Khajimba.
It remains unknown who was involved in poisoning Bzhania. He himself does not insist that the crime be investigated. He says he just wants to put the incident behind him, and forgives the criminals.
Bzhania, like his opponents, supports the idea of full-scale reforms to the economy, law enforcement agencies and the administrative system as a whole. He has identified the fight against crime and corruption as his top priorities.