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Hundreds Storm Khajimba’s Office in Sokhumi, Demand New Polls

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Supporters of opposition in Moscow-backed Sokhumi stormed ‘presidential administration’ office in the afternoon of January 9. Protesters demanding resignation of Abkhaz leader Raul Khajimba and appointing new “presidential polls” smashed the doors and windows of “presidential” office and rushed into it.

Opposition parties of “Amtsakhara” and “United Abkhazia” earlier called on their supporters to gather outside “the Supreme Court” on Thursday, where “the board of cassation” of Abkhaz “Supreme Court” that resumed consideration of former ‘presidential’ candidate Alkhas Kvitsinia’s claim to annul outcome of the polls, planned to hold a hearing on January 9.

Incumbent Abkhaz leader won in “presidential runoff” in September 2019, garnering 47.38% of votes, while opposition’s Alkhas Kvitsinia, leader of “Amtsakhara” party received 46.19%. Kvitsinia then appealed the results at the “Supreme Court” of the occupied region, demanding annulment of the results of the September 8 “runoff polls.” Kvitsinia lost an appeal in late September. Kvitsinia asked for cancelling the results, claiming Khajimba failed to garner over 50% of the votes. He then appealed at “the board of cassation” with the same claim.

Amid today’s protest, “the cassation board” of Abkhaz “Supreme Court” once again postponed consideration of the appeal for indefinite time.

Khajimba’s administration denounced the events as attempted coup d’état. Abkhaz leader held the meeting of “the security council” with the participation of his political rivals. Addressing people following the meeting, Khajimba asked people to remain calm, vowing to declare state of emergency if necessary.

Tensions regarding “presidential polls” in Abkhazia have been running high since spring of the last year, as Aslan Bzhania, one of the leaders of the opposition and a potential ‘presidential’ candidate, was poisoned with heavy metals in April 2019.

Opposition then protested in Sokhumi in May for postponing the polls. Abkhaz leader Raul Khajimba then agreed to postpone the date of ‘presidential elections’, following his talks with opposition leaders. The sides decided to hold the polls on August 25, instead of July 21. Bzhania still failed to participate in ‘elections’ and backed opposition’s Kvitsinia to challenge Khajimba.

On August 25 none of the nine candidates managed to garner the threshold. The repeat polls was then 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” in September.

Bzhania returned to Abkhazia in mid December following undertaking treatment in Moscow and Berlin.

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili tweeted that she is paying close attention to the events in Sokhumi.

Georgian State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, Ketevan Tsikhelashvili stated that Tbilisi  gives safety of Sokhumi population utmost importance.

“Obviously, every process and development in Abkhazia is in the focus of our attention. For us the major priority is that every development [in Abkhazia] is peaceful and that safety of population is not jeopardized,” Tsikhelashvili noted.

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. In August 2019, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili dubbed Abkhaz polls as a “sham process.”

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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