New parliament in breakaway Abkhazia elected as its new speaker Valery Bganba, who defeated opposition candidate Raul Khajimba in the vote during the opening session of the legislative body on April 3.
Bganba was a lawmaker in 1990s and head of local administration in Gagra in 2002-2006. Before becoming a lawmaker again in 2007 (at the time he was reportedly positioning himself as a candidate in opposition to then Abkhaz leader Sergey Bagapsh), he was in charge of a health resort Amra in the town of Gagra. He is one of those five lawmakers who managed to retain seat in the breakaway region’s new parliament after two rounds of elections last month.
Raul Khajimba of opposition Forum for the National Unity of Abkhazia, who congratulated Bganba on his election as speaker, told journalists after the session that the result of the vote was not a surprise and it was determined long before the vote through backstage deal between government and most of the lawmakers. He said that it was in fact government’s pressure on the legislative body and expressed regret that lawmakers failed to resist this pressure from the executive.
“We were telling voters [during the campaign], that we have to be independent branch of the government and that we should not depend on anyone, but, unfortunately, reality turned out to be quite the opposite,” Khajimba was quoted by RFE/RL’s Russian-language service, Ekho Kavkaza, on April 3.
Bganba, who denied the government’s role in his election, said he would only welcome “constructive opposition” within the parliament.
Also on its opening session on April 3, the breakaway region’s parliament elected new vice-speakers, increasing their number from previous three. Both the new speaker and Abkhaz leader, Alexander Ankvab, who addressed lawmakers, said that more vice-speakers were needed in order to intensify the parliament’s foreign contacts.
“Our goal is to gain friends in the world,” Ankvab said. “Four vice-speakers, I am sure, will have a lot of work to do.”