‘Parliament’ Calls on Abkhaz Leader to Resign, Khajimba Refuses

Moscow-backed Abkhaz ‘parliament’ appealed to ‘president’ Raul Khajimba to resign late on January 9 in order to avoid further escalation of the ongoing political tensions in Sokhumi. 19 members of Abkhaz ‘parliament’ of 27 present at the special session endorsed the motion.

The appeal by the Abkhaz ‘parliament’ comes as hundreds stormed Abkhaz leader’s office earlier on Thursday, demanding new ‘presidential polls’ and Khajimba’s resignation. Khajimba’s administration dubbed the storming of his office by hundreds of protesters as coup d’état.

Khajimba refused to resign. Press office of Abkhaz leader responded to the appeal later yesterday, noting that “despite its stated goal, to avoid further destabilization, [Khajimba’s resignation] can only complicate the socio-political situation and lead to irreversible consequences” for Abkhazia. Khajimba offered his political rivals to start negotiations.

On January 10, Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement, noting that “we are closely following the developments of the internal political situation in Sokhum[i]. We are assessing the events that happened in this country as its internal affairs.”  “We count on immediate stabilization of the circumstances in Abkhazia within the legal frames via peaceful direct dialogue between the interested parties,” it further added.

According to Abkhaz sources, the Deputy Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, Rashid Nurgaliyev arrived to occupied region on January 10. Media reports say Nurgaliyev is set to meet Abkhaz leader, as well as Mohamed Kilba, head of Abkhaz ‘security council’ in the morning of January 11.

Both, opposition and Abkhaz leader’s supporters rallied in Sokhumi today. Khajimba’s opponents keep occupying ‘presidential administration’ building.

Abkhaz opposition has been calling for annulment of the outcome of “presidential runoffs” since early September 2019. Incumbent Abkhaz leader won in the second round, garnering 47.38% of votes, while opposition’s Alkhas Kvitsinia, leader of “Amtsakhara” party received 46.19%.

Kvitsinia did not recognize Khajimba’s ‘presidency’ and filed the lawsuit 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. Opposition asked for cancelling the results, claiming Khajimba failed to garner over 50% of the votes as demanded by the procedures. Kvitsinia then filed the lawsuit with same demand at “the board of cassation” of the “Supreme Court”.

“The cassation board” of Abkhaz “Supreme Court” planned to hold a hearing on January 9. Hence, opposition parties of “Amtsakhara” and “United Abkhazia” called on their supporters to gather outside “the Supreme Court” on Thursday. Supporters of opposition then stormed ‘presidential administration’ office in the afternoon of January 9.

Tensions regarding “presidential polls” in Abkhazia have been running high since spring of the last year however, 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 2019 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. Due to his health conditions, Bzhania still failed to participate in ‘elections’ however, and backed opposition’s Kvitsinia to challenge Khajimba.

As none of the nine candidates managed to garner enough votes on August 25, repeat polls were held between the two frontrunners Raul Khajimba (23.85%) and Alkhas Kvitsinia (21.97%) in September.

Bzhania returned to Abkhazia in mid December following undertaking treatment in Moscow and Berlin, further strengthening opposition to challenge Khajimba’s rule. 

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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