Abkhaz Opposition Demands Resignations, Referendum Delay

SUKHUMI, Abkhazia –More than 1.500 opposition party supporters in Georgia’s breakaway region Abkhazia stormed the rebel republic’s interior ministry building on Tuesday, demanding the resignation of Internal Affairs Minister Leonid Dzapshba and the postponement of a planned referendum on early presidential elections scheduled for July 10.

According to the news website, Caucasian Knot, the protesters broke down the gates surrounding the interior ministry building in the de facto capital Sukhumi on July 5 and clashed with police. At least four people were seriously injured in the violence, according to reports from news portal Ekhokavkaza.

Abkhaz President Raul Khajimba announced the temporary suspension of Dzapshba, but later labelled the protestors’ actions “a provocation aimed at destabilizing the political situation in Abkhazia.”

Khajimba steadfastly refused to delay the referendum and castigated the opposition parties for demanding that he agree to their demands.

"The situation has yet to be resolved, and the opposition has different requirements that are unacceptable. Negotiations will continue tomorrow, and we will see where they lead," Khajimba told Russia’s TASS news agency.

Khajimba did, however, say he would meet the opposition's demand to allow people with expired passports to vote in the referendum.

A referendum on early presidential elections was scheduled for July 10 on the initiative of Abkhazia’s opposition parties. Those opposed to Khajimba, the head of Abkhazia since 2014, claim he failed to fulfil his campaign promises, in particular, forming a coalition government and carrying out substantial constitutional reforms.

"The group of authorities who constantly violate the law, who came to power as a result of violations of the constitution and cannot simply comply with the law…are those with policies based on deception and lies. We declare that under these conditions we won’t go to a referendum and will call for a full boycott of the vote,“ Henri Jergenia, a member of the opposition’s political council, said.

Immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian-backed rebels in Abkhazia broke away from Georgia. Moscow occupied and effectively annexed the area, as well as Georgia’s other breakaway South Ossetia region.

Moscow recognized South Ossetia and the other occupied Abkhazia region as independent states following the 2008 war.

International law and the United Nations continue to state that the regions remain part of Georgia.

By Tamar Svanidze and Nicholas Waller

Photo: BBC

07 July 2016 14:29