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Court Fails to Deliver Breakthrough in Abkhaz Crisis
/ 29 Oct.'04 / 17:46
Civil Georgia

In the wake of the Abkhazian Supreme Court’s controversial ruling, outgoing Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba issued an order on October 29 instructing the Central Election Commission to hold repeat presidential elections in the breakaway region within two months. Opposition presidential candidate Sergey Bagapsh has already condemned Ardzinba’s order as "illegitimate."

Developments in the breakaway region overnight on October 29 further deepened the crisis, which erupted in Abkhazia after the disputed October 3 presidential elections, which were expected to bring a new leader of the unrecognized republic into power in order to replace ailing Vladislav Ardzinba.

Late on October 28 the Supreme Court overruled an appeal by pro-governmental presidential candidate Raul Khajimba, who has backing from the Kremlin, demanding the cancellation of the Abkhaz Central Elections Committee’s (CEC) October 11 protocol which declared Sergey Bagapsh President-elect, with 50.08% of the vote; hence the Supreme Court confirmed Bagapsh as the winner of October 3 elections.

Following the decision, supporters of Khajimba stormed the court building and in the early hours of October 29, Judge Giorgi Akaba announced the Supreme Court’s new decision, which overruled the earlier verdict and ordered to hold a re-vote, as demanded by Khajimba. Later on October 29, Giorgi Akaba admitted the court was under pressure by Khajimba’s supporters and the ruling should not be considered valid.

Sergey Bagapsh told Interfax news agency on October 29 that Ardzinba’s order is illegal, as only the Abkhaz Parliament has the right to appoint repeat elections. Chairman of the Abkhaz Parliament Nugzar Ashuba told the Georgian news agency Inter-Press that the legislative body "does not intend to consider the presidential order [over repeat elections] on the background of the current political situation."

"Most of the parliamentarians believe that discussions over fixing the date of a re-vote is untimely against the backdrop of the Supreme Court’s decision, which was taken under the highly-controversial circumstances," Nugzar Ashuba told Inter-Press news agency.

Reports say that currently the situation in the capital Sokhumi is strained; however no unrest or disorder has been reported so far.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has already commented regarding the recent development in Abkhazia, expressing hope that "the situation will develop in a calm atmosphere."

"We are not indifferent towards the situation in Abkhazia… The sooner the disputable issues are solved in Abkhazia, the sooner Sokhumi and Tbilisi will get back to negotiations through the support of the Russian Federation and the Group of Friends of the UN Secretary General to find a mutually acceptable way out of the situation," Russian news agencies quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as saying.

Shortly after the October 3 elections, Russian Foreign Ministry described Abkhazian polls as "calm" and "democratic."

Meanwhile, the Georgian State Minister for Conflict Resolution Issues Goga Khaindrava described the recent developments in the breakaway region as "a vivid attempt to appoint" pro-governmental candidate Raul Khajimba as the President of the unrecognized republic.

Goga Khaindrava told Russian news agency RIA Novosti on October 29, that the authorities in breakaway Abkhazia hopes to "mobilize all state resources in two months in order to push their favorite Khajimba into the post of Presidential."

He also said that Georgia can not remain indifferent to the developments in Abkhazia. "The elections in Abkhazia are illegitimate. But the population of Georgia, including Abkhazians and Georgians, should have the right to freely express their political position," Goga Khaindrava added.

Khaindrava also said, on October 27, that in the event that opposition candidate Sergey Bagapsh takes over the Abkhaz presidency, the Georgian population in the Gali district might avoid further pressure from the Abkhaz side. Khaindrava said that the votes cast in favor of Bagapsh in the Gali district of Abkhazia largely determined the opposition candidate’s success in the October 3 presidential elections.

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