So-called presidential elections carried out in Abkhazia, far-right German politicians present as ‘observers’
By Levan Abramishvili
Tuesday, August 27So-called presidential elections were held in occupied Abkhazia on August 25. At 8 AM Moscow time, a total of 152 polling stations across Abkhazia have been opened, including in the Gali district, where most of the local population doesn’t have the right to vote as they are ethnically Georgians.
Thousands of ethnic Georgians residing in Abkhazia have been stripped of their right to vote in the elections. Georgians compose almost 98% of the Gali district population, therefore the candidates didn’t bother to carry out their campaigns there.
According to the head of the election committee of the de-facto republic Elene Labakhua, this is the sixth presidential elections, which is being held in 35 constituencies and a total of 116 thousand voters are registered. The elections for the so-called president of Abkhazia were also being held in Russia and one of the polling stations were open in Moscow.
Representatives of the Russian Duma were present during the so-called elections in Abkhazia as observers.
Aside from the Russian representatives, observers from South Ossetia, Transnistria or Nagorno-Karabakh were also involved in the process. According to several sources, representatives from Belarus, Germany, and China also observed the so-called elections.
Georgia, with the international community, does not recognize the elections in Abkhazia, or the de-facto republic of South Ossetia.
A total of nine candidates were participating in the so-called elections: Alkhas Kvitsinia, Oleg Arshba, Astamur Tarba, Almas Japua, Leonid Dziapshba, Shamil Adzinba, Astumur Kakalia, Artur Ankvabi, and the current de-facto president Raul Khajimba.
A second round of the so-called elections was scheduled for September 8, as the current “president” Khajimba garnered 23.85% of the votes and a representative of a party ‘Amtsakhara’, Alkhas Kvitsinia got 21,97% of the votes. The total turnout was 66.55%.
Even though the outcome was hard to forecast for the local experts, it was evident that Khajimba, who recently held a meeting with the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, was the Kremlin's favorite. During the meeting, Putin expressed this hope that the elections would be held “by strict adherence to the democratic principles.”
Several months before the election, a united opposition candidate Aslan Bzhania was rushed to a hospital, with an alleged poisoning. Bzhania is still undergoing treatment and cannot run in the elections. Poisoning political opponents has become a signature move of Putin. Just last month, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, one of Putin’s harshest critics, was hospitalized after a mystery illness that his doctors say may have been the result of poisoning. Therefore it is not hard to tell who stood behind Bzhania’s illness.
Georgian officials and the international community have called the so-called elections illegitimate and an attack at Georgia’s sovereignty.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia (MFA) issued a special statement on August 25, referring to the conduction of the so-called presidential elections in occupied Abkhazia region, as “another illegal act directed against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia.”
“While hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons and refugees are expelled from Abkhazia region as a result of ethnic cleansing, and the occupying power fully controls the situation on the ground, it is obvious that in such circumstances the so-called elections cannot have any legal effect, as they fully contradict the fundamental norms and principles of international law,” reads the statement of MFA.
According to the statement, the international community will never accept the ongoing violations in the occupied territories.
“It is evident that the so-called presidential elections represent yet another futile attempt to legitimize the ethnic cleansing, the ongoing illegal occupation, and steps towards factual annexation of Abkhazia region. The international community will never accept the attempt of forceful change of sovereign borders of Georgia, as well as other illegal steps of Russia in terms of the erection of barbed wire fences along the occupation line, military build-up and grave violations of fundamental human rights on the ground,” says the official statement
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia also calls on the Russian Federation to “respect the undertaken international obligations, fulfill the EU-mediated 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement, and reverse its illegal decision on recognition of the so-called independence of the occupied regions.”
The President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili has also responded to the so-called elections, calling it a “sham” on her twitter page.
“The de facto authorities in Abkhazia are holding today illegitimate “presidential elections”. Georgia condemns this sham process as yet another violation of our national sovereignty,” reads the President’s tweet.
The so-called foreign minister of the de-facto Abkhazian government Daur Kove responded to the Georgian MFA’s statement regarding the so-called elections in an interview with “RIA Novosti’, saying that the process is in line with democratic norms.
“The Georgian Foreign Ministry has said nothing new. This is the propaganda stamp that has been circulated by Georgia all this time. The only thing I can say in this context is that the elections are in line with all legal and democratic norms and standards and are held in strict accordance with the law,” said Daur Kove.
According to him, a large number of international observers, including from Germany, are present in the republic in the elections.
‘RIA Novosti’ wrote that the European observers called the elections ‘free and democratic’.
The observers included German Bundestag deputy Stefan Keuter, a member of the Berlin House of Representatives Gunnar Lindemann, both from the far-right AfD, and Austrian Patrick Poppel, former secretary-general of Suworow Institute in Vienna and an avid supporter of the leading ideologues of Russian anti-Westernism and illiberalism, Alexander Dugin. A former Prime Minister of Slovakia (1991–1992) Jan Carnogursky, who currently is a chairman of the Slovak-Russian association, was also present in Abkhazia as an observer.
“The elections at polling stations that we observed were indeed democratic, without pressure… The mood was calm and friendly everywhere. We did not observe any significant missteps and violations,” said Keuter.
While according to Lindemann, the elections were held according to European standards, freely.
Georgian MFA spokesperson Vladimir Konstantinidi has responded to the presence of two German lawmakers as the observers at the so-called presidential elections.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs worked in a preventive manner with all the partner countries. If not for the preventive steps, the number of so-called observers would have been much higher.
As for the two lawmakers from Germany, they have not been granted authority or status from the structures they represent. It was their visit, we have information that these people are from a far-right party and are under Russian influence, which is also proven by the fact that their visit was funded by the Russian side, even though they were warned that they would violate both international laws as well as the Georgian legislation,” said Konstantinidi.
The Embassy of Germany to Georgia has also commented on the presence of the German lawmakers.
“If Mr. Lindemann and Mr. Keuter decided to go to Abkhazia, they did this with their initiative, as they have not received any official instructions from the German government. Germany does not recognize the so-called elections in Abkhazia and does not send observers there. Germany has always supported Georgia’s territorial integrity and will do so in the future,” the Embassy told Imedi TV.
The Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia is the farthest southwestern historical province of Georgia. Recently, 27 years have passed since the armed conflict broke out in Abkhazia, which lasted for 13 months and 13 days and resulted in the death of 10 to 30 thousand military and civilians. 300 thousand people became refugees or internally displaced. The war ended on September 27, 1993, with the Abkhaz capture of Sokhumi, the capital of Abkhazia.
On August 26, 2008, Russia completed the full annexation of Abkhazia, officially recognizing the “independence” of the Abkhazian state. In spite of the efforts of imperial Russian forces, the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia is a legitimate, integral part of Georgia, as recognized by the international community.