Voters in Georgia’s Russian-occupied region of Abkhazia went to the polls on August 25, to elect the region’s new “president.” However, the polls, that Tbilisi and International Community call illegitimate, will go into a runoff as none of the nine candidates managed to overcome the 50% threshold.
The repeat polls will be held between the two frontrunners: Raul Khajimba (23.85%), the incumbent president and Alkhas Kvitsinia (21.97%), the chairman of the main opposition party “Amtsakhara”, reportedly on September 8.
According to the region’s “central election commission” 66.5% of 129,421 eligible voters cast ballot in 154 polling stations, including two in Russia’s Moscow and Cherkessk.
Ten people were initially registered to run for “presidency”. As occupied Abkhazia elects “president” and “vice president” simultaneously for the term of five years, one of the contestants, Astamur Otirba, was removed from the race as he failed to introduce a new candidate for vice presidency, following his team member Davit Dasania’s withdrawal on August 9.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry said in a statement of August 25 that the so-called presidential poll in Sokhumi is “another illegal act directed against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia.” According to the foreign ministry, these elections represent “yet another futile attempt to legitimize the ethnic cleansing, the ongoing illegal occupation and steps towards factual annexation” of the region.
T/so-called presidential elections in #Georgia‘s Abkhazia region fully contradict int’l law &cannot have any legal effect, as they are
another futile attempt of Russia to legitimize ethnic cleansing, illegal #occupation &factual annexation. https://t.co/5f7H1RNN33
— MFA of Georgia (@MFAgovge) August 25, 2019
Georgia called on Russia to fulfil the EU-mediated ceasefire agreement and reverse its illegal decision on recognition of independence of the occupied regions. It also called on the international community “to give a due assessment and take effective measures to counter the illegal processes taking place in the occupied territories.”
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has also denounced Abkhazia polls in Twitter, saying: “Georgia condemns this sham process as yet another violation of our national sovereignty.”
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.
— Salome Zourabichvili (@Zourabichvili_S) August 25, 2019
A group of 15 countries, including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom and the United States of America, also “do not recognize the legitimacy” of Abkhazia polls and “will not acknowledge their outcome.”
In a joint statement of August 26, the countries reiterated their “full support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders,” and called on Russia:
- To reverse its recognition of the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, and
- To withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions and provide free access for humanitarian assistance to these regions.
The Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan issued a separate statement, reaffirming its support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Azerbaijan also does not recognize “presidential elections” in the Abkhazia region of Georgia, as well as its results.
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry believes “it is necessary to continue negotiations for peaceful settlement of Abkhazia issue in compliance with the norms and principles of international law.”
NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, James Appathurai also stated that NATO does not recognize the so-called elections in Abkhazia.
NATO Allies do not recognize the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia as independent states. NATO supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders”, Appathurai wrote on his official Facebook page.
The co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Titus Corlaean (Romania, SOC) and Claude Kern (France, ALDE) have also reiterate their “full support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia within its internationally-recognized borders.”
“The so-called ‘presidential elections’ in the Georgian region of Abkhazia on 25 August 2019 are therefore neither legal nor legitimate. As we have said before, these so-called elections hinder the peaceful settlement of the conflict and instead of uniting people they only drive them further apart. We can only condemn that,” they stated.