Op-ed: President of Abkhazia under a political siege
President Aslan Bzhania and the political crisis in Abkhazia
Opposition parties and public organizations of Abkhazia are united in the “People’s Patriotic Union”, which will call a “people’s gathering” demanding the resignation of President Aslan Bzhania. JAMnews editor in Abkhazia Inal Khashig analyzes the reasons and possible consequences of such a development.
In Abkhazia, the previously fragmented opposition has united. Now Aslan Bzhania will have to spend the entire remaining presidential term in a state of siege. For modern Abkhazian history does not know any other development of events in this alignment of forces.
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When the opposition unites, it means that the president does not hear it, and in retaliation it begins to accumulate resources in order to systematically swing his power to infinity.
If this algorithm is not subjected to enmity on both sides in the process of a cardinal revision, “infinity”, as a rule, ends in a situation that is banal for unstable democracies – the resignation of the president.
“Light mode” for Bzhania
Aslan Bzhania’s two predecessors, Alexander Ankvab and Raul Khadzhimba were forced to resign early as a result of such a union of their opponents (the first in May 2014, the second in January 2020).
Since Bzhania took office in April 2020, the internal political situation in Abkhazia has been developing for him in light mode.
All despite the pandemic, during which the authorities practically let the situation take its course and despite the acute energy crisis, which was caused by the rash actions of the government, which decided that the legalization of mining would help to overcome the energy shortage.
This initiative was played back two months later, when another ban was introduced but it was already too late. The authorities did not have any strength and desire to control the situation with mining and reinforced its impotence by introducing rolling power outages throughout the country, the schedule of which, with the approach of cold weather, becomes tougher and tougher.
Even with these factors, the ‘light’ regime for President Bzhania remained. His main competitor in the last presidential elections, former Minister of Economy Adgur Ardzinba, initially stated that breaking windows and taking out the doors of the presidential palace was not his method.
Moreover, he even offered his assistance in the implementation of unpopular reforms. Another no less ambitious oppositionist, the former mayor of Sukhum, Kan Kvarchia, initiated a Memorandum to stabilize the socio-political situation in the country, according to which all the political forces of the republic pledge not to resolve political crises by force.
However, reforms did not happen over these one and a half years, and the promised restoration of order turned out to be frankly one-sided.
Perhaps Aslan Bzhania would even be forgiven for the absence of reforms, especially since the opposition does not have its own clear view of how to lead the country out of a severe socio-economic crisis. However, the president’s view of what law and order and justice should be, using the example of the scandalous incident on the Sukhumi embankment, radically diverged from the opposition’s vision.
Let me briefly recall the timeline of the incident: on September 30, the day when Abkhazia celebrated another anniversary of victory in the Georgian-Abkhaz war of 1992-93, opposition deputy Garry Kokaya, after a feast with his fellow villagers, war veterans from the village of Adzyubzha, fired a pistol into the air.
A group headed personally by Interior Minister Dmitry Dbar took it upon themselves to pacify the violator of public order. As a result, having beaten the deputy and the veterans, and leaving their victims on the “battlefield”, the police left. Naturally, the next day, the injured party began to demand justice from the president – the resignation of Dmitry Dbar.
For more than a month, the president delayed the answer, apparently hoping that the situation would somehow resolve itself, but the delay made the crisis even more aggravated, since the entire opposition took the side of the Adzyubzhins. As a result, he retained the minister to his position.
What should the president do?
However, now that the opposition has united in response to such a decision, clouds are gathering over the president’s head. Now, in order for the events not to develop according to their usual scenario, with disgruntled crowds storming the presidential palace, Aslan Bzhania needs to undertake a strategy unusual for an Abkhaz leader who finds himself in such a situation.
In this context, ordinary actions refer to the president turning his palace into a besieged fortress – a course of events that we have already witnessed from Bzhania’s predecessors. We all know how it ended.
So, the more the president clings to his chair, forgetting why the people of Abkhazia entrusted him with this subject, the less chances he will have to remain in his post. He should be the president of all his citizens, not just the leader of his supporters – and then he will succeed.