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Highly Controversial Elections in Abkhazia result in Bagapsh's Presidency

This past weekend, Pro-Russian incumbent President Sergei Bagapsh won a Presidential election in a region that many members of the global community refuse to recognize as a valid country.

On December 13, Sergei Bagapsh was announced as the winner of the Presidential elections in Abkhazia, the breakaway region of Georgia that was a site of much contention and conflict during last year’s Russian-Georgian war.  Bagapsh beat out four opponents, winning 59.4 % of the vote.

Abkhazia has been formally recognized as a country by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and the Pacific Nation of Nauru but lacks acknowledgment from the majority of the world’s nations.   In a recent article by the Christian Science Monitor, the Rebel Black Sea’s deputy Foreign Minister Maxim Gunjia stated that he hoped the Presidential elections would help Abkhazia break free from its current state of diplomatic isolation.  Hoping to be seen as a valid democracy, he  said:

“We believe the successful conduct of these elections will put more weight behind our claim to independent existence. These elections went smoothly, and we regard them as a test of democracy. They are a sign that we are growing up into full nationhood.”

Abkhazia is located on the eastern coast of the Black Sea and the south-western flank of the Caucasus.  The region was officially part of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991, and has since been caught up in a battle for independence from Georgia. Although Abkhazia declared its independence from Georgia in a gritty civil war 16 years ago, Georgia still claims the region as its own.  Last year’s Russian-Georgian war however, encouraged officials in Moscow to officially recognize the region as fully independent, much to the disdain of Georgian officials.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, “the biggest objection to the legitimacy of Abkhazia’s government comes from refugee groups, who point out that nearly 250,000 ethnic Georgians were driven from the territory during the bloody civil war in the early 1990’s and have since been deprived of any say in the territory’s future.”

However, Russian officials are happy with the outcome, as they have a vested interest in controlling the territory.  As the Christian Science Monitor states,

“Russia currently has about 3,000 troops in Abkhazia, including 1,000 border guards, and has recently dispatched the first ships of what will be a squadron of ten coast guard gunboats to protect Abkhazian waters from the Georgian navy, which claims the right to territorial control.

“Russian leaders are satisfied with the Abkhazian elections,” says Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the official Institute of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Moscow. “Bagapsh is in favor of improving Abkhazia’s economy through growing cooperation with Russia.”

Read the full article here: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-News/2009/1214/Abkhazia-insists-independence-from-Georgia-assured-after-disputed-election

 

Author

Neshani Jani

FPA blogger Neshani Jani holds a Masters degree in Media Culture and Communication from New York University and dual Bachelors degrees in Anthropology and Spanish Literature from the University of California, Davis. She is a freelance writer and is currently helping to manage blog networks for the Foreign Policy Association and the Women's Education Project.

Neshani has a background in journalism and interned with the CBS News program 60 Minutes. Additionally, she is a public and internet radio veteran. She has worked as a research assistant at both the Social Science Research Council and at the Institute for Scientific Analysis and currently blogs for several of the Foreign Policy Association's global affairs blogs.

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