Aug 24, 2011

Abkhazia: Ready For Elections

High turnout expected in the upcoming elections as campaigns end and elections begin.

Below is an article published by the Voice of Russia:

Everything is ready in Abkhazia for the August 26 presidential polls. The snap election was called after the premature death of President Sergei Bagapsh in late May. The Central Elections Commission expects a high voter turnout of more than 70%.

Three candidates are running for the presidency – Prime Minister Sergei Shamba, Vice President Alexander Ankvab and former Vice President and opposition leader Raul Khadzhimba.

Ankvab’s campaign chief Leonid Lakerbaya has said that the election campaign was calm and smooth and that preparations for the polls are proceeding according to plan:

"I see no problems that may hamper this process. We are in a cheerful mood and ready to work. Our political platform draws on the recognition of Abkhazia’s independence by Russia – our big neighbor, strategic partner and a guarantor of our security. Having received these guarantees, Abkhazia should demonstrate to the entire world that its recognition was not in vain, that Abkhazia is a law-governed democratic state. This is our priority. We hope to succeed."

Raul Khadzhimba told the Voice of Russia that the election campaign had intensified in the last remaining days:

"We hold about five meetings per day. These are very interesting meetings focused predominantly on social issues: salaries, employment, housing, the construction of new schools and kindergartens. We have always said that Russia is our main partner and that we should continue to build our relations with it on the same principles as during the previous years. Each candidate hopes to win. I’d rather not say anything about myself. Let’s wait for the election results."

Sergei Shamba equally favors strategic partnership with Russia. Shamba’s campaign schedule is extremely busy, his campaign chief Nugzar Agrba told reporters:

"He has met with 15,000-17,000 voters - lots of young people, middle-aged people and World War II veterans. Voters spelled out their concerns and wishes. We are currently sorting them. In case we win, we will start implementing them. Sergei Shamba is on very good terms with Russia. Russia will always be Abkhazia’s strategic partner. We will to seek our recognition by other counties and will bolster friendship between nations. Shamba founded the Congress of Ethnic Communities of Abkhazia which comprises Armenians, Greeks, Russians, all nationalities. He put forth a slogan: “united people – strong state”. Shamba has a really good economic program called “Abkhaz Breakthrough”."

With just three days left before the election, many in Abkhazia fear possible provocations by Georgia. Tbilisi has reportedly attempted to dissuade some European Union countries from sending their observers to Abkhazia. Dmitry Shamba, Abkhazia’s Central Elections Commissioner, comments on the issue:

"We are verifying which observers from which countries have been forced to refuse to come. There have been provocations on the part of Georgian diplomatic missions in a number of European states, attempts to put pressure on people who intended to come."

The upcoming election will be supervised by more than 80,000 observers from Russia, the European Union, Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia.