Abkhaz opposition leader wins presidential election – opponents ready to cooperate
Aslan Bzhania, leader of the united opposition in Abkhazia, has just become the new president of the republic following the elections on March 22.
One round of voting was enough to ensure his victory.
Bzhania’s main opponent, Minister of Economy Adgur Ardzinba, personally congratulated him for winning the race, without even waiting for the official results.
АСЛАН БЖАНИЯ ПОБЕДИЛ НА ВЫБОРАХ ПРЕЗИДЕНТА РЕСПУБЛИКИ АБХАЗИЯ С победой Аслана Бжания поздравил его основной конкурент Адгур АрдзинбаPosted by Медиа-клуб «Аҧсны.иахьа» on კვირა, 22 მარტი, 2020
Aslan Bzhania won more than the requisite 50 percent of the votes needed to become president, and by a large margin. Preliminary data shows he won 58 percent of the vote.
Adgur Ardzinba, a member of the previous administration, received 35 percent.
The third participant in the race, former Minister of the Interior Leonid Dzapshba, gained just 2 percent of the vote.
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At about 11 pm on March 22, before all the votes had been counted, Adgur Ardzinba officially announced his own defeat, and Aslan Bzhania’s victory.
Half an hour later, he visited Bzhania’s campaign headquarters to personally congratulate him on his election.
“This election campaign will go down in history as the calmest. Congratulations to Aslan Georgievich Bzhania and his team for their victory. He is an experienced politician. If all the ideas that he has voiced are put into action, then we are only here to help him,” said Ardzinba, wishing Bzhania health and success.
Furthermore, Ardzinba said that it is impossible to solve the large number of problems and tasks that have accumulated before Abkhazia without consolidating forces.
Aslan Bzhania was touched by his main opponent’s words. He noted that, as far as he can remember, candidates never congratulated each other in such a way.
“We have no losers, since we have a lot of problems that need to be solved by a large circle of people, especially people who have a certain amount of experience. I hope very much that through our combined efforts, we will achieve great things,” said Bzhania
The previous elections are officially considered repeat elections. The last time Abkhazia elected a president was not that long ago – in 2019.
How Raul Khajimba became President of Abkhazia for the second time – and how he was forced to leave after six months
On September 8, 2019, Raul Khajimba won the second round of the presidential elections in Abkhazia and went on to serve a second term in this post. The opposition protested and stated that this was no victory, since Khajimba won only 47 percent of the vote, while the law required a 50 percent +1 majority to win.
The situation became much worse when in November, a high-profile triple murder was committed in a popular restaurant in the center of Sukhumi in broad daylight. After some time, it turned out that among those who carried out the attack were members of President Khajimba’s guard.
On January 9, 2020, around a thousand people, including relatives and friends of those killed, stormed the presidential palace and demanded the president’s resignation. That same afternoon, the Supreme Court declared the election results invalid.
On January 12, Raul Khajimba announced his resignation and the Central Election Committee (CEC) announced that there would be repeat elections.
Coronavirus — what precautions were taken during the election
Despite the coronavirus epidemic, the CEC of Abkhazia decided not to postpone the elections, and held them as scheduled. Moreover, not a single case has been officially recorded in the republic.
Several precautions were taken – at polling stations, members of the election commissions worked in protective masks and gloves, voters used hand sanitizer before voting, and they were allowed to tick off the ballot with their own personal pens.
Some feared that turnout would be low, as voters would prefer to stay home and not risk catching the virus, but it turned out to be quite high, at more than 60%.
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.
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