Ten to Run for Abkhazia “Presidency”

Ten candidates will run for “presidency” of occupied Abkhazia on August 25. The region’s “election administration” registered seven candidates on July 19 and the remaining three – on July 26, which was the deadline of registration.

“President” and “Vice President” will be elected simultaneously for the term of five years. Thus, the local election administration also registered 10 vice presidential candidates.

The ten to run for Abkhazia “presidency” are:

  • Raul Khajimba (61) – incumbent leader since 2014;
  • Shamil Adzinba (49) – political and public figure; served as the region’s “deputy prime minister” in 2014-2016;
  • Oleg Arshba (55) – political figure; served as “deputy foreign minister” and “assistant to defense minister” of occupied Abkhazia at different times;
  • Almas Japua (40) – Abkhaz lawmaker since 2014; businessman, founder of a public movement Common Affair;
  • Leonid Dzapshba (59) – leader of Akzaara party; served as “interior minister” twice in 2010-2016;
  • Alkhas Kvitsinia (50) – chairman of the main opposition party Amtsakhara (the party mainly unites the 1992-1993 Abkhaz war veterans);
  • Astamur Tarba (58) – businessman, deputy director of the company A-Telecom; served as “secretary of Abkhaz security council” in 2000-2003;
  • Artur Ankvab (50) – historian, lecturer at “State University of Abkhazia”;
  • Astamur Kakalia (43) – businessman, representative of Transnistria to Abkhazia in 2005-2007;
  • Astamur Otirba (54) – businessman, director general of Abkhazchai tea production company.

Aslan Bzhania, 56, opposition MP and a potential candidate, had to withdraw from race due to his illness.  Bzhania was hospitalized in April 2019 with signs of breathing difficulties and speech impairment. He was first treated in Sochi in southern Russia, but was later transferred to Moscow and then to Germany. The opposition claimed that Bzhania was poisoned and launched protest rallies on May 20, demanding postponement of presidential elections initially scheduled for July 21 to November to enable Bzhania to run for presidency.

On May 22, Abkhaz leader Raul Khajimba agreed to postpone the  elections, following talks with opposition and moved the polls to August 25, instead of initially scheduled July 21. On July 14, Bzhania released a statement, saying that he would withdraw from race and called on voters to support Alkhas Kvitsinia of opposition Amtsakhara party.

Bzhania was Khajimba’s key rival during the 2014 “presidential polls” as well.

Who can be elected?

According to “the constitution” an Abkhaz national aged 35-66, who lived in Abkhazia during last five years before the date of elections is eligible to run. To undergo registration, a candidate should pass the test to demonstrate the knowledge of Abkhaz language.

Exact number of voters in the occupied region is unknown so far. The region’s election administration has to release voter lists 10 days before elections, till August 15. About 131,000 voters were registered during the 2014 “presidential elections.”

Besides Abkhazia, polling stations will also open in Moscow, Cherkessk and Istanbul.

Elections in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions are denounced as illegitimate by Tbilisi and the international community, except of Russia and four other countries (Nauru, Venezuela, Syria and Nicaragua), which have recognized the two regions’ independence from Georgia.

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