Khajimba, Vote Hunter


The events surrounding the so-called presidential elections in occupied Abkhazia exceeded all expectations. Although the second round was predicted by all election observers, no one was able to foretell the results. Who could have imagined that the favorite candidate of President Putin, the current “president” Raul Khajimba, would fail to get even a fourth of the total votes. But he wasn’t alone, as neither of the other eight candidates were able to gather 25% of the votes and all this in light of the fact that the number of voters on the occupied territory doesn’t exceed 129,000.

Khajimba, who got the most votes, received only 20,304. Oppositional candidate Alkhas Kvitsinia gathered 19,032 votes, while the favorite of former “president” Ankvab, Oleg Arshba, got 18,931 votes. The rest of the candidates got no more than 6,000 votes altogether. Khajimba and Kvitsinia will participate in a second round and now everything depends on those 45,000 voters who did not show up on polling day on August 25.

Khajimba believes that he has the relevant resources to increase the number of voters and states that he will work on this part of the electorate during the time that is left before the second round. “We know where we failed and which votes we will be able to get,” he told journalists on August 26.

This resembles the events that took place during last year’s Georgian presidential elections, when the fate of the chosen was determined by the voters who didn’t vote during the first round: it was these people whose votes were “bought” by the Georgian Dream for Salome Zurabishvili. But how President Putin will act in this situation, we will find out on September 10.

The similarities between elections go further: remember when the electorate from Ninotsminda mixed up Mikheil Saluashvili and Mikheil Saakashvili? Likewise the Abkhazian voters confused Artur Ankvab for Alexandre Ankvab. With the help of Saakashvili and the Ninotsminda voters’ mistake, Saluashvili got the votes, as Artur Ankvab got 1403 votes from the Gudauri electorate.

If we recall the parliamentary elections of 2012, the United National Movement lost in those election districts where it had worked most: Batumi and Sighnaghi. The same happened to Khajimba: he lost the districts where his campaign had worked hardest. There hasn’t been a yard or a road which wasn’t repaired in the new district of Sokhumi; Khajimba was even named Concrete Raul for the endeavor, which obviously proved futile.

Despite Khajimba’s hopes, everyone in Sokhumi is convinced that the presidential prospects for both candidates are in the hands of Alexandre Ankvab, whose favorite candidate got only 102 votes less than Kvitsinia before the elections, Ankvab was asking for the post of so-called Prime Minister and for the completion of the government. Naturally, after August 25, his ambitions only increased. As for the Kremlin, it seems to be in a win-win situation.

Khajimba is known to be Putin’s favorite, and the two met in Sochi before the elections, which obviously didn’t make a difference. Maybe Putin’s neutrality is the result of the 2004 experience, when Putin openly supported Khajimba and called Abkhazians to vote for him and instead the elections were won by Sergei Bagapsh.

Today, Khajimba’s situation is far more difficult: where in 2004 he was only known as being the colleague of Putin in the KGB, today everyone knows that Khajimba is the protector of corruption and criminals. Compared to this, Kvitsinia has a good reputation. He has been working as the Deputy Major of Sokhumi for years in a territory still considered an oasis for corruption, with candidates including Khajimba unable to discredit him. Kvitsinia’s clean reputation has made him known as a person who fights corruption and criminals, which is what he has based his election campaign upon.

As for the approach of the Kremlin, it hasn’t shown any pretentions yet. It will likely be supporting this candidate too, as Moscow needs to have a leader in the occupied territory with such a clean reputation. At the moment, Khajimba is 1615 votes ahead of Kvitsinia, about the same number difference seen between Salome Zurabishvili and Grigol Vashadze after the first round of presidential elections last year. Whether the same scenario will repeat in Sokhumi, we will see soon. What Khajimba needs now is a protector who is willing to spend his money on votes, just like Ivanishvili and the Georgian Dream did for Zurabishvili.

By Zaza Jgarkava

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05 September 2019 18:26