What is the Abkhazian opposition and who is behind it?
Nona Suvarian, «Akhali aliansi»
The 12th of December was chosen as the date for the first presidential elections since the recognition of Abkhazian independence by Russia. Both the opposition and authorities of the separatists became more active for the forthcoming elections. Bagapsh once again decided to get support and votes of population of Gali and therefore he ordered his people to initiate in the separatist parliament the process of making amendments to the law about “citizenship of Abkhazia” approved by the parliament in 2005. In case of endorsement of this change in the above law the population of Gali would become citizens of the self-proclaimed republic without difficulties. But Bagapsh was not able to sign the law that was already approved by the Parliament on the 31st of July. The reason for this was the opposition that organized a protest in front of the Parliament on the 5th of August and later they managed to enter the building. As it became apparent Abkhazian opposition is totally against the equalization in rights of the Abkhazian and Georgian population of Gali. Why is the opposition against giving citizenship to Gali population? What is the Abkhazian opposition and who is behind it? “Akhali Aliansi” discussed these and other issues with General Levan Kiknadze, the president of “The Club of Experts” and a former Minister of Security of the Abkhazian Autonomy:
- It was the pressure from the Abkhazian opposition that forced Bagapsh not to endorse changes to the law about “citizenship of Abkhazia”. Why did Bagapsh take into account views of the Abkhazian opposition? What kind of atmosphere and balance of power is inside the political specter? If we look at the list of names of those who were in favor of these amendments we will see that their only motive was for Bagapsh to remain the President. So refusal to sign the amended version was a result of immense pressure that came not only from the opposition but probably from Russia as well.
- As we know the Russian recognition of the Abkhazian independence was equally acceptable both to the government and the opposition. And, all the fuss made by the opposition in connection with certain government agreements with Russia is linked more to the campaign for the upcoming presidential elections rather than to their sincere concern regarding a future of Abkhazia that no longer expected to be a sunny prospect. I am sure and so I have already said several times that Khajimba will be “better” capable of carrying out the Kremlin course than Bagapsh. An important fact is that in the previous elections FSS general Khajimba was the Kremlin candidate and his failure to win the elections was Putin’s failure. And, as we know Putin does not easily forget failures. If we also take into account that Bagapsh’s popularity is much lower than it was before the previous elections he will be unable to take this kind of pressure. As to the main opposition parties, they are: Peoples’ Unity Forum, Party of the Economic Development that is headed by a prominent businessman Beslan Butba. The main government party is United Abkhazia.
- Why is participation of Gali population in the elections not acceptable for the opposition? Or why was it good for Bagapsh and if you have information what is the mood in Gali now and who do the Georgians support?
- The population of Gali voted for Bagapsh in the previous elections and everybody knows that that was the decisive factor that brought Bagapsh’s success. It is also widely known that the separatist regime for years has been using all means not to give so-called Abkhazian passports to the Gali population. But to be fair, Georgian population of Gali was not really fighting for it. They were not very eager to reject the Georgian citizenship which is the necessary condition for applying for the Abkhazian passport. Khajimba who went over to the opposition proposed not to permit population that do not hold Abkhazian passports to vote. That initiative was depriving the Gali population of their right to vote and that in return would be very damaging to Bagapsh. So Bagapsh’s initiative to make amendments to the law was aimed at the Gali electorate. He wanted Gali population to be considered as citizens of the self-proclaimed Abkhazian state and therefore to be able to get passports without difficulties. That issue was at the centre of the animated debate in the separatist parliament. The radicals were demanding not to make exceptions for the Georgian population of Gali and reserve a right to the double citizenship just for the Russian citizens as it was written in the old law. They consider the Georgian population of Gali equal to other ethnic minorities such as Greeks, Armenians, Jews who would not be able to become Abkhazian citizens if they already were citizens of the respective countries.
- Considering the Georgian interests, which way is best for us – involvement of Gali population in the Abkhazian politics or staying away from it?
- In any way the separatist regime wants to use population and resources of Gali for its own interests. The population of Gali has known all about it for a long time already. The fact that indigenous population of Abkhazia is on equal rights with ethnic minorities speaks volumes. In 1999 when the separatist regime needed votes of the population of Gali for the referendum nobody doubted their citizenshiop and 14 000 people were used for votes in their favor using fabricated identities. Therefore people who were refused by the separatist regime to recognize their indigenous status and “illegal” but still citizenship, should stand up to this accordingly and not to agree to the elections on top everything that are “illegal”.
- What do you think of the recent visit of the Premier-Minister Putin to Abkhazia? Publicly he expressed support for both candidates. But the press says that Bagapsh still remains the favorite of the Kremlin. What’s your prognosis regarding the Kremlin behavior during the election?
- Putin’s visit to Abkhazia is a part of the policy that the Kremlin decided to conduct in response to the Biden visit. In the future, the Kremlin will try to present itself to the international community as the defender of the democratic values and officially will not give preference to any of the candidates. But I think the Kremlin will support Khajimba.
- By the way, lately the opposition often criticizes the Kremlin. Is there real signs for the future confrontation or everything is just a show directed by Moscow?
- Confrontation will be and will be very fierce but just for the post of the president and not for frustrating Russia’s plans with regards to Abkhazia.
- There were several expositions during the visit of Putin in Abkhazia. It is unknown who did this but Abkhazians did not lose time to blame Georgians for this. How does preserving an illusion of the tensions in Abkhazia play to Putin’s advantage? What is the real situation regarding the situation between the clans?
- Since the Russians have set an almost colonial administration in Abkhazia, serious instability, other than “divide and rule” policy is not in Putin’s favor. Also not so much time is left before the Olympics in Sochi.
- Then who were interested in organizing these explosions?
- We had and still have information that there are people in Abkhazia that are against the Russian colonial policy. So I cannot rule out that these explosions are a form of protest from their side. The organizers of the explosions probably wanted to show that not everything in Abkhazia is as Putin wants it to be or how people present it to him. There are people that oppose the Kremlin course. From my experience I can say that these are the nationalists that strive for a real not a virtual independence and they do not want to be dependant neither on Russia nor on Georgia. That’s why we should show them that we are better than Russia. We should convince them that the only way of survival of the Abkhazian ethnos that is now on the brink of extinction is to return to the Georgian space. This can be achieved by resurrecting a trust between us. Also, our country should be stable, economically strong and not dependent on others.
- There were several rounds of the Geneva Talks. How productive are they?
- There are no results yet. But there always are positives in the determined negotiations. First of all, these interactions tend to turn into personal relationships where mutually acceptable matters can be reached and disused. So there is no alternative to negotiations. As somebody who comes from Abkhazia, I know that the dialogue is best way. Our organization is planning an active participation in these processes.
- How do you see your part in it?
- As I said at the presentation of “the Club of Experts” our main objective is to provide Abkhazian, Ossetian and other inhabitants of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region with real and truthful information about the processes in these regions, as well as imperialistic intentions and plans of Russia and other interested countries. Doors of our organization are open to everybody who wishes to support us in this noble matter.