Abkhazian Parliament keeps in line with tradition - none of opposition members get key positions
A new composition of the Abkhazian Parliament elected its speaker and their deputies a few days ago. The heads of nine parliamentary committees and commissions will be named this week.
Parliament seems to keep in line with a tacit tradition, where all key positions go to the pro-governmental parliamentary majority group – none of the opposition members, or at least some independent MPs, have been elected to the steering bodies.
It’s more likely than not that the parliamentary majority will distribute the portfolios of the committee/commission heads in the same way among its members.
Historically, there is only one day of mass interest in the Parliament’s activity in Abkhazia, when even apolitical housewives are ready to tear themselves away from their TV series for at least an hour and talk politics with a business-like air. This day is the first session of the newly elected parliament.
Such an attitude to the first session has always been a mystery, for it is impossible to adopt a priori of any historical decisions or some very important law at the first session. It has a very limited agenda,which includes only staffing issues – the election of the Parliament Speaker and his deputies.
It seems, even the housewives are restless over that very staffing issue. They are so concerned about who will be elected to the key position, as if the latter, upon climbing up the presidium, would hand over to each viewer a map of the shortest way to communism.
The question that bothered everyone on the day of the Parliament’s first session, 12 April, was as follows: will there be live streaming of the parliament session? Even the militiamen, standing in cordon a block away from the governmental complex, were concerned about the TV broadcast, though it was not quite clear how they were going to watch it while on duty.
Up until the very beginning of the session, there was a tumultuous voting on social media as to who is going to hold the Speaker’s post. Alexander Ankvab, ex-president of Abkhazia and currently the opposition leader, secured the victory among the Facebook users with the overwhelming majority of votes.
However, there is a strong contrast between reality and fiction. Alexander Ankvab stood no chance to be elected as the Speaker, given the present-day composition of the Parliament, and he himself realized that pretty well. 20 out of 35 MPs are regarded as pro-presidential and they will, under no circumstance, vote for an ex-president or for anyone who is not from their circle.
Under the existing regulations, the first session was opened by the eldest MP, Valery Kvarchia. Valery Yeremeevich is not just the eldest, but also the most experienced lawmaker. He has been in Parliament for 20 years, with a few small intervals.
He was the first to be nominated for the Speaker’s post.
The opposition group and those who regard themselves as independent MPs, paid respects to Kvarchia, but they still suggested Batal Tapagua, ex-Chair of the Central Election Commission and currently an MP, for the Speaker’s post.
Those two surnames – Kvarchia and Tapagua, had been named as would-be speakers many days before the launch of the new Parliament’s work. So, things too openly followed a pre-set scenario or scenarios.
Another nomination was made by Almas Jopua, the only member of the ‘Aynar’ party enjoying the reputation of a ‘rebel’. He came to the first session wearing Cherkeska (chokha, a wool coat, a traditional male dress), with a dagger and a pistol. But he spoke in a calm and peaceful manner. He nominated Ilia Gunia, a leader of the ‘Aruaa’ veterans’ movement, for the Speaker’s post. However, the latter has withdrawn his candidacy.
As a result, Kvarchia gained 20 votes, Tapagua – 10. Four ballot papers were declared void. Thus, Valery Kvarchia has been elected as the Parliament Speaker.
The election of three deputies turned out to be an easy process. Sayid Kharazia, Levon Galustyan and Mikhail Sangulia were nominated for the deputy speaker posts. The only woman, Natalia Smyr, who, in some mysterious way managed to get into the company of such strong men in the current parliament, was also named as a candidate. But she has since withdrawn, with the opposition not nominating anyone from the group, though even if it had proposed its candidates, they would unlikely have been elected.
As a result, there was no competition for the three vacant positions. In this respect, the Abkhazian parliament is traditionally conservative. The winner takes it all, which is probably the reason why the Abkhazian apolitical housewives are so interested in the staffing issue.