An uncertain election campaign and four challengers have not created too many problems to the outgoing President of the Republic of Abkhazia, who at the end of the voting day has been again appointed to lead the country for five years more. The multiethnic population of the country, mainly composed by Abkhazians, Russians, Georgians, Ukrainians and Armenians, chose to be fully confident of Sergej V. Bagapsh, the head of the State who in recent years has become a true symbol of Abkhazia. Bagapsh proved to be a wise and balanced politician, able to overcome many vital challenges for the country: from the transition of post-war period up to the most recent political tensions that preceded the 12th December’s voting day.
The whole elections’ day has passed with a high turnout, nearly 70%, with large differences in every polling district. About 127,000 citizens were registered as able to vote, men and women owning an Abkhazian passport. Remarkable has also been the turnout at the two polling stations in the Russian towns of Cherkessk and Moscow, where also voted Fazil Iskander, the most famous Abkhazian contemporary writer.
Bagapsh’s challengers proved to be difficult opponents: Beslan Butba (leader of the Party for Economic Development, owner of local television Abaza TV), Zaur Ardzinba (director of the leading sea shipping company of Abkhazia), Raul Khadzhimba (former Vice President of Abkhazia) and Vitalij Bganba (philosopher and lecturer). Overall, however, the winner proved to be too popular if compared to all these opponents, gaining nearly 60% of the votes, far more than what was necessary to avoid the second election round. A quite largely expected victory, considering the historical result which Sergei Bagapsh reached before the elections, namely the Russian recognition of Abkhazian independence signed by Dmitrij Medvedev, after the brief Ossetian war of August 2008.
The presence of a high number of international observers, more than 80 experts and officials coming from nearly 20 countries of the world, could give greater emphasis to the criteria of electoral transparency. The observers, which included also American lawyers, as well as their European colleagues expressed largely positive comments about the whole presidential election’s organization and management. Even Vladimir Churov, head of the Central Electoral Commission of the Russian Federation, visited different regions of the country as well as the district of Gal’, the “hottest” zone with mixed ethnic population at the borders with Georgia. According to many agencies, it seems that even in that area the turnout was quite high, though everything passed in a calm atmosphere.
Observers, as previously mentioned, came also from many European countries, including Finland, Switzerland, France and Poland. No observer noted during the monitoring operations problems which could formally affect the voting process. The “new States of Caucasus” keep on attracting the interest of European experts, politicians and journalists, as shown by the media coverage by newspapers and international information agencies.
The European Union has shown, once again, a rather ambiguous approach in the Caucasus, detached from its objective geopolitical reality: Europe officially plans to ignore the political path of the Republic of Abkhazia, even though many Europeans are very much interested in the development of governmental institutions of the country.
While the voting process has been greeted positively in Russia, Georgian authorities has maintained a rather hostile approach. As usually Tbilisi has criticized the elections, calling it a “comedy supported by Russia” and a “violation of the sovereignty and laws of Georgia”, referring to some 3,600 Russian soldiers based in Abkhazia. Strangely, Mikheil Saakashvili declares Abkhazia an “occupied country”. So, Georgian politicians seem to be surprised by the fact that Abkhazians want to rule Abkhazia!
In Europe, when our politicians will choose to study these problems using their hearts and brains, it will seem nothing strange about an Abkhazian government in Abkhazia, just as we think it’s normal for France to be ruled by a government composed of French politicians…
However, the confidence of a large part of the population in the politics of the President of Abkhazia can be considered as the main point for the elections’ analysis. Even this vote, held substantially in accordance with international standards, won’t change the European and American approach toward the “new Caucasian states”; moreover, the ambiguous behavior of the international community has been a long time unsolved issue.
Abkhazia has long ago chosen its own direction, and the public reliance towards the current leadership is an important resource to rule this very particular country. Indeed, Abkhazia will soon clarify the main targets of its economic development, focusing especially on tourism and agronomy. Today, thanks to the improved political stability, there seems to be all the requirements for highly profitable investments, as stated in these days Christina Ozgan, the local Minister of Economy.
For a long time, regional conflicts and international tensions have hampered the development of an extremely varied landscape which proved to be very interesting for different business initiatives.
But today, in sight of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, few miles from the Abkhazian border, Sergej Bagapsh and his government could show to the international community the reality of a finally resurrected Abkhazia.
It will also be an opportunity to show the positive impact of Russian diplomacy in the Caucasus, hoping that “someone” won’t try to oppose these positive perspectives with a new threatening season of borders’ militarization.