Leaders of presidential race in Abkhazia unite – rivals may follow suit
The election race in Abkhazia is picking up steam as the main candidates have registered and the parties have decided with whom they will cooperate.
It is unlikely that more blocs and candidates will be added to the race as it approaches on March 22, therefore a look at the current picture is likely to remain accurate in the month and a half ahead.
On September 8, 2019, Raul Khajimba won the second round of the presidential election in Abkhazia and went for a second term in the position. The opposition protested and stated that the victory was illegitimate, since Khajimba gained only 47 percent of the vote, while the law required 50 percent +1 of all voters.
In January 2020, a riot began in Abkhazia. After two days of mass protests, a large group of activists stormed the presidential administration. The Supreme Court then decided to remove Khajimba from office. On January 13, 2020, the president signed a voluntary resignation.
A repeat presidential election was scheduled for March 22, while Prime Minister Valery Bganba remains the interim president until that time.
Who are the candidates for the new presidential election
This time, three times as few politicians declared themselves for the race than in the summer elections of 2019.
Leonid Dzapshba, the former Minister of the Interior, was the first to declare himself.
He is a traditional participant in the election race and will stand for the third time. He ran for the first time in 2014, then in previous elections in 2019. Both times, he received about four percent. An advantage of 4 percent may be decisive in the upcoming elections, so his electorate may become important for those who theoretically enter the second round.
Following this, an initiative group of the opposition leader Aslan Bzhania came to the CEC. He is the candidate for the united opposition, and his supporters consider him an indisputable favorite. Bzhania survived a sudden serious illness right on the eve of the previous elections and therefore could not participate in the previous elections in 2019.
Bzhania himself and his supporters confidently say that they tried to poison him in order to remove him from the presidential race.
A significant event was the unification of Bzhania with influential politician, ex-president Alexander Ankvab. If Bzhania becomes president, Ankvab will become prime minister.
Earlier there was speculation that Sukhum Mayor Kan Kvarchia would run: he is called “the best mayor in the recent history of Abkhazia” by many. Kvarchia for the Abkhaz voter is closely connected with the team of ex-president Raul Khajimba. However, he announced he would not run in the presidential elections on February 11.
The youngest candidate in the history of the Abkhaz elections is Adgur Ardzinba, Minister of Economy and Deputy Prime Minister. He is known for the idea (unrealized) to create a national cryptocurrency. Ardzinba is also associated with the former government.
Russia – whom does it now support in Abkhazia?
Russia’s participation in the political upheavals in Abkhazia is obvious.
In the midst of the political crisis in January 2020, when Raul Khajimba signed his resignation letter, opposition leader Aslan Bzhaniya met with Vladislav Surkov, an assistant to the Russian president who oversees everything related to Abkhazia in the Kremlin, in the building of the Russian embassy.
What was discussed at the meeting is not known to anyone for certain.
Abkhazia is also actively talking about the fact that Adgur Ardzinba is closely associated with Inal Ardzinba, the former head of the Russian President’s Department for Social and Economic Cooperation with the CIS States, and now chairman of the Youth Affairs Council under Patriarch Kirill.
Public predictably divided
The Abkhaz public is divided into several warring camps.
The unification of Bzhania and Ankvab was to at least satisfy both candidates’ supporters. But many say that they do not like such a team, and they would prefer Ankvab to run for office – he himself can no longer run, since he is older than the age allowed for a presidential candidate.
In addition to campaigning for some of the political figures, in the Abkhaz segment of social networks there is active campaigning “against”.
And according to tradition, a considerable part of all discussions is conducted anonymously.