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No Place Like Home

 

OP-ED

The time has come for the rotation to happen in the occupied territories. Elections for the so-called parliament in Abkhazia and the so-called president in South Ossetia are about to be held. At a first glance, it seems the two elections have nothing in common, but if we examine the course of events more closely, we will see that both “elections” have a big common trait – their former leaders are planning a comeback: Alexander Ankvab to Sokhumi and Eduard Kokoity to Ttskhinvali.

The first round of “parliamentary elections” was already held in Sokhumi and ex-president Ankvab has already been elected among the 35 lucky ones who will take over the legislative management of the occupied territory. But for Eduard Kokoity things are more complicated, as the Kremlin forbids him from returning to the post of head of government and he has been denied the registeration. Although Validslav Surkov, the head of the Georgian occupied territories from the Kremlin, says Kokoity should satisfy the requirements of the local election commission regarding housing documents, the latter and the “Heroes” of the August War remain stubborn. For a long time, Kokoity has been living in Moscow instead of Tskhinvali, therefore his housing documents are also from the Russian capital.  It seems the Kremlin has no need of rebellious leaders in the breakway region and puts its stakes on the current “president,” the former KGB officer Leonid Tibilov. So, why the Kremlin did not prevent Ankvab from becoming an MP and why their candidate Sergey Shamba was unsuccessful remains a mystery.

Ankvab has the reputation of having a “strong-hand” and supposedly he fights corruption- doing so quite “sovietly”, meaning he confronts only those from the opposite clan. Maybe that is the reason he was attacked as many as five times, and once even at his home. But fate was on his side and he survived every time. Taking into consideration these attacks, we could conclude that electing Ankvab could intensify the confrontation between Abkhazian clans and the “gangster wars.” As they predict in Sokhumi, Ankvab will soon even become the “Speaker of the Parliament” and get his revenge by ejecting former opponent, de-facto President Raul Khajimba from the post. Why Surkov and the Kremlin allowed Abkvab’s political resuscitation is truly hard to explain.

It is obvious that the Kremlin is unsatisfied with Ankvab’s political resurrection. Recall Konstantin Zatulin’s visit to Abkhazia, where he travelled with an observer mission from the Russian Federation and said: “Despite all due respect for the Abkhazian electoral system, I should say that during the Armenian Parliamentary elections on April 2, for the first time quotas for national minority candidates will be provided. 99 percent of the population in Armenia is Armenian. Nevertheless, there will be four places for the national minorities in parliament. Tell me the need for more than 100 candidates and only one with a Russian family name?” A total of 137 candidates competed for 35 mandates in the Abkhazian “Parliament,” and while being almost the same number in population as Abkhazians, Armenians have only four seats. Zatulin’s announcement was was far from coincidental. By bringing the Armenian theme to the forefront, it becomes clear that the Kremlin is trying to balance the legislative fantasies of the Abkhazians. As time passes, the Kremlin will continue trying to play the Armenian cards more effectively.

Abkhazians are facing a problem: how to withstand pressure from the Kremlin and their desire to swallow Abkhazia completely. Moscow further exerts pressure by closing the border and trying to choke Abkhazia economically. And whoever becomes head of the occupied territory will have just two options to choose from: watch how Russia eats up Abkhazia or think about a real comporomise with Tbilisi with the help of the European Union. But keep in mind the latter is out of the question if the IDPs aren’t returned to their homes.

Zaza Jgarkava

 

18 March 2017 20:24