Aslan Bzhaniya wants to become "Abkhazian Putin": Opinion
Aslan Bzhaniya’s ambitions
The whole reformist spirit which allowed Bzhaniya to win the presidential election three years ago evaporated in the first year of his reign, and during this period he contented himself with the creation of a new commission on constitutional reform — and promptly forget about it.
The president’s inertia on the path of reform was so obvious, even as pantomime, that pro-presidential media – which are obliged to colorfully describe Bhzaniya’s tireless work – quickly realized the futility of this hobby and focused on “Aslan Georgievich and his team inherited a bad legacy from the previous government.”
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At first it seemed that Bzhaniya, having lost faith in reform, decided to borrow the tactical developments of his two predecessors, Alexander Ankvab and Raul Khadzhimba, meaning a complete rejection of any sudden movements both in domestic and foreign policy, with an expectation of compensation from the Russian federal budget.
Considering that both Ankvab and Khadzhimba retired ahead of schedule via coup, this tactic is dubious, to say the least.
Aslan Bzhaniya, of course, understands this, and it has become increasingly difficult to secure Russian financing. In order to get money, Abkhazia now needs to move in the opposite direction — not only aligning Abkhazian and Russian legislative codes, but also allowing Russian businesses to nibble, or even chomp, at sections of Abkhazia’s assets, including the energy sector.
The Russian position became stauncher still with the so-called “special military operation.” But Bzhaniya seems to have decided on his course even before that, and will try to appease Moscow to the fullest, hence his efforts at securing a controlling stake in the new parliament.
Previously the People’s Assembly was more “variegated” in composition, and thanks to this the parliament positioned itself as independent of the executive branch. Such independence gave Abkhaz leaders the opportunity to maneuver before the Kremlin, in effect saying “our hands are tied; it didn’t pass parliament.”
But now all power in Abkhazia is concentrated in Bzhaniya’s hands.
And he is ready to make good on promises to Russia. There is a feeling that in addition to copying Russian legislation, the president’s plan is essentially to set himself up as the Abkhaz Putin.
But that system requires resources, a lot of resources, and before that a well-oiled repressive apparatus with high-power hoses, police batons, Basmanny Justice, and prison cells for dissidents.
However, the question of where to get the money to build such a system seems to have already been resolved for Aslan Bzhaniya.
The Russian oligarch Alexander Tkachev will invest in the resort sector, while another oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, will take over restoration of the Sukhumi airport, and energy will be given to Russian state corporations. Now that Russian oligarchs have been sanctioned from all sides, Abkhazia can become for them a kind of “import substitution space”.
In current geopolitical conditions, Bzhaniya’s plan may just work out. At the same time, it is not certain that the revenues of the Abkhazian budget will increase much from the activities of oligarchic capital — otherwise it would not be oligarchic. And in order to build a repressive apparatus at least, as Bzhaniya wants, the oligarchs will definitely not spare money. But on someone else’s money, someone else’s laws and someone else’s power, you can become at best an ordinary governor, and at worst a junior partner of a certain corporation.
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