Russia-backed Abkhazia to repeat presidential elections

Photo: Vladamir Popov A re-run of the presidential election in the Russia-backed Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia will be held

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Photo: Vladamir Popov

A re-run of the presidential election in the Russia-backed Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia will be held today.

The vote follows violent protests and the resignation of former president Raul Khajimba on January 12 after the Supreme Court annulled his disputed September 8, 2019 election victory.

Out of the three candidates, the two favourites are Adgur Ardzinba—linked to Khajimba’s government—and main opposition leader Aslan Bzhania. The latter was a major contender for last year’s election before being hospitalised after a suspected poisoning; he was eventually forced to retire from the race in April 2019.

According to local observers, neither candidate is likely to win outright in the first round, and the vote could go either way in the second round. This would make the second round choice of voters for the final contender, Leonid Dzapshba, crucial to the outcome.

A win for Ardzinba would mean a continuation of Khajimba’s hardline policy on Georgia—refusing talks with Tbilisi until it recognises Abkhazian independence—and make dialogue with Tblisi highly unlikely. However, Bzhania is more open to at least informal dialogue. This may not mean formal talks, but it would increase prospects for easing border restrictions with Georgia that Khajimba imposed in 2017, such as reopening border closed crossings in villages that face each other across the unofficial line of control.

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