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Learning from Abkhazians

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, September 2
The New York Times reported on the elections held in de facto Abkhazia on September 1, raising several significant points about the electoral process. However, these elections were not recognized by Georgia or the international community, the authors of the article pointed out.

According to the newspaper, many Western organizations, urged by Tbilisi, condemned the polling. Catherine Ashton, the European Union's Foreign Policy Chief said the EU “does not recognize the constitutional and legal framework within which these elections have taken place,” while NATO declared that the alliance “does not recognize the elections.”

The main reason for these reactions is that while the people of Abkhazia view themselves as an independent state, the world’s governments--with very few exceptions--consider the territory as an integral part of Georgia. Only a few weeks ago the U.S. Senate passed a resolution describing Abkhazia as “occupied” by Russia. However, “...condemning political processes in the breakaway territory damages Western credibility and influence in the South Caucasus in a number of ways.”

As the article states, a significant point was the fact that by South Caucasus standards, "The elections seemed reasonably competitive. Although the election was probably far from perfect, all three candidates openly courted voters during the campaign and all were granted equal time by state television." The article pointed out that "The same cannot be said of national elections in Georgia, which is regarded by Western governments as a model democracy that Abkhazia should aspire to join, which for years now has been dominated by the United National Movement of President Mikheil Saakashvili.”

As for two more points, according to the newspaper, there was little evidence to suggest that Moscow predetermined the Abkhazia result. Yet the West’s open hostility to the polling unintentionally reinforces Russia’s growing influence. At the same time, “by showing no interest in this election, the West further entrenches the counterproductive position that nothing that happens in Abkhazia, or even the views of the people there, have any bearing on any potential resolution to the conflict.”

“Absolute absurd” was the assessment given to the comparison of de facto Abkhazian and Georgian elections by the Government representative, Davit Darchiashvili to The Messenger, “I have not read the article myself, but if this is really written there it means that those people who wrote it are not familiar with Georgian reality and how elections are held in the country, or else they are given false information about Georgia. It has never happened in Georgia that a candidate has been kept from broadcasting in equal time, etc. Elections in Georgia are based on international standards and this is recognized by the international community," the MP stated, and underlined that the “so-called elections (in Abkhazia) can’t be taken as elections at all and they had nothing in common with democracy.”

According to one well-known Georgian analyst, Irakli Sesiashvili, Head of the Justice and Freedom organization, the most democratic elections in Georgia were held in Abkhazia , “I have a “ kind envy” towards those elections which were held in de facto Abkhazia, as they are really unlike those held in Georgia , and they were not fabricated. He mentioned that there are some things we can learn from Abkhazians and not only the contrary. "There are frequent statements that we should express to Abkhazians, and show that there is high level of democracy in Georgia and attract them with our resorts and the better economic situation. However, we should learn much from Abkhazians too, who are in the claws of the bear-- and yet even in such conditions they manage to defend the region’s interests." Sesiashvili told The Messenger.