Abkhazia: internal political crisis

PRAGUE, 10 June, Caucasus Times. Abkhazia entered 2016 in the state of internal political crisis marked with opposition rallies that demanded President Raul Khajimba’s resignation. The new spiral of the political crisis should be viewed from two prospectives: on the one hand, the events of spring-summer of 2014 and on the other hand, Russian-Abkhazian relations. Clearly, the current situation is to a large extent predicated by the outcomes of last year’s power redistribution. Rallies and the takeover of the Government headquarters that led to the former President Ankvab’s resignation set things in motion. A year and a half ago opposition which was then led by Raul Khajimba organized a coup and created political precedent. Today’s opposition led by Khajimba’s main opponent Aslan Bjania as well as supporters of the former President Ankvab will be preparing to turn the tables again. The question is whether they will wait for the new presidential elections in 2019. Most likely, the answer is no.

Another key factor that puts pressure on the internal dynamics in Abkhazia is Russia’s influence. Moscow is openly blackmailing Abkhazian government by not releasing funds promised in the framework of the strategic partnership agreement between the two countries. As in the spring of 2014, the struggle between opposing political forces in Abkhazia centers around Moscow’s financial assistance. The Kremlin is playing its strongest colonial game by simultaneously catering to both sides of the conflict. As a result, Russia’s political and military presence in Abkhazia is growing. It is particularly evident from the strategic partnership agreement between the two countries which obviously puts Abkhazia’s national interests at a disadvantage. Moscow threatened to cut money transfers if the Abkhazian government didn’t follow the Kremlin’s request to create a data center under the Ministry of Interior. Eventually, the center was established despite strong opposition from some of the deputies and the public.

In 2016 Moscow successfully pressured Abkhazia into joining Russian sanctions against Turkey. This decision first and foremost harmed Abkhazia’s efforts to bring back repatriates from Turkey. Abkhazia had invested a lot of money into this process as the return of the compatriots is a key national priority for a small republic. Today, there are 100,000 Abkhazians living in Turkey (compared to 70,000 in Abkhazia) and 8,000-10,000 living in Syria, according to the human rights center “Memorial”.

Moscow is planning to push forward another critical legislation in Abkhazia that affects property sale to foreigners. During the last parliamentary session of 2015, which also coincided with the visit of Russian emissary Vladislav Surkov, the Abkhazian parliament reviewed a controversial draft law regulating property sales. The law evidently favored Russian citizens. In case the Abkhazian government passes the law, the opposition will take to the streets in public protest.

Caucasus Times

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