Bagapsh, Khajimba Agree to Share Power
|Bagapsh (left) set to become President,
Khajimba – Vice-President. Reuters photo
A friendly handshake and kiss between opposition leader Sergey Bagapsh and his former rival Raul Khajimba marked the end of a two-month election crisis in Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia on December 5, just one day before the scheduled presidential inauguration of Bagapsh.
Inauguration plans were scrapped and repeat presidential elections, in which Bagapsh will run as the presidential candidate and Raul Khajimba as for Vice-President, will be held instead in the de facto republic. According to the Abkhaz constitution the Vice-President is elected together with the President.
“We will work in one team,” Sergey Bagapsh said at a news briefing, which was also attended by Raul Khajimba, Russian Deputy General Prosecutor Vladimir Kolesnikov and Vice-Speaker of the Russia’s Duma Council (lower house of the Parliament) Sergey Baburin.
The agreement was made possible as a result of late night negotiations between Khajimba and Bagapsh, which were mediated by Russian Deputy General Prosecutor, Russian Vice-Speaker and Abkhaz Prime Minister Nodar Khashba.
Cordial tone prevailed during the joint news briefing late on December 5 after the talks.
“The most important thing is that we may reunite the people. And I want to thank Raul Khajimba for this,” Russian Kommersant daily reported quoting Sergey Bagapsh as saying.
“They both [Bagapsh and Khajimba] made a brave step. We can stop a civil confrontation,” Nodar Khashba, Prime Minister of unrecognized republic, said.
“This decision is about political and national unity,” Russian Vice-Speaker Sergey Baburin said.
“The crisis has gone; everything will be OK… and the border [between Russia and Abkhazia] will be reopened,” Vladimir Kolesnikov, the Russian Deputy Prosecutor General said.
Russia, which supported pro-governmental presidential contender Raul Khajimba, imposed sanctions on Abkhazia by halting its railway link with the de facto republic and banned the import of agricultural products from Abkhazia in an attempt to mount pressure on Bagapsh.
“There has never been anti-Russian stance in Abkhazia and there never will be,” Sergey Bagapsh said.
“This [agreement] is a step forwards, towards stabilization [in Abkhazia],” Raul Khajimba was quoted by the Russian daily Kommersant as saying.
But hopes over stabilization in the breakaway republic were shaken by four separate blasts, which occurred in the Abkhaz capital Sokhumi overnight on December 6. No casualties were reported. No details regarding the motive behind these explosions, which were reportedly equivalent to 200-300 grams of TNT each, are known.
However, Sergey Bagapsh, in an interview to the Interfax news agency early on December 6, reiterated that the agreement reached late on Sunday is still in force.
The agreement came as a surprise, as Sergey Bagapsh announced that his presidential inauguration would take place as scheduled on December 6 just a few hours before the latest joint news briefing, as no agreement had been reached during consultation that were held overnight on December 4-5.
The crisis in Abkhazia erupted after the first ever contested presidential elections occurred in the region on October 3. On October 11 the Abkhaz Central Election Commission declared Sergey Bagapsh President-elect, with 50.08% of the vote. However, pro-governmental candidate Raul Khajimba challenged this decision at the Supreme Court.
Late on October 28 the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Khajimba and confirmed Bagapsh as the winner of the October 3 elections.
However, following the court’s ruling, Khajimba supporters stormed the court building and in the early hours of October 29, Judge Giorgi Akaba announced the Supreme Court’s new decision, which overturned the earlier verdict and ordered a re-vote to be held, as demanded by Khajimba. Later on October 29, Giorgi Akaba admitted that the court was under pressure by Khajimba’s supporters and the ruling was not valid.
The crisis escalated further on November 12 after supporters of opposition candidate Sergey Bagapsh burst into several major governmental buildings and captured breakaway Abkhazia’s governmental offices. A ricocheting bullet killed an elderly woman during clashes on November 12.
The strength of Khajimba’s opposition ability had been gradually waning and took a serious blow after both the Parliament and Council of Elders of Abkhazia recognized Bagapsh as the president-elect.
Unlike, Moscow, the Georgia side refrained from meddling in the crisis until recently. On December 3, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili recognized Sergey Bagapsh as the President-elect of the breakaway region; however he still condemned the October 3 presidential polls in Abkhazia as “illegitimate.”
Saakashvili said that Tbilisi is ready to hold peace talks over the Abkhaz conflict resolution only with Bagapsh, who represents the majority of the population that currently lives in Abkhazia.