Bagapsh has died. What's next?
02/06/2011 13:59
Madlena Macharashvili

After the death of de facto leader of Abkhazia Sergei Bagapsh duties of the president are carried out by Vice-president Alexander Ankvab. It is him who experts and analysts expect to become Bagapsh's successor. But still everything will be decided in illegitimate elections of the illegitimate authorities. There Ankvab's competition, along with others, will become more prominent political figures - Prime Minister Sergei Shamba and old rival of Bagapsh, opposition leader Raul Khajimba.

Here is a conversation on this issue of a correspondent of the Tribuna magazine and representative of the Club of Experts Irakli Tskitishvili.

What changes will occur in Abkhazia in this post-Bagapsh period, that is, what will tomorrow be like in Abkhazia?

- First and foremost, fight for redistribution of spheres of influence will start in Abkhazia. Today the sphere of influence in politics and domestic economy are intertwined and, accordingly, this process will have an impact on politics as well.

So, I think that redistribution of spheres of influence would cause tension between clans of the leaders. In the next three months situation in Abkhazia will escalate and pretty serious incidents can be expected against the background of internal confrontation.

- Which specific political leaders can join a process of redistribution of property, i.e. who may become parties to the conflict?

- The fact that the property, in most cases, is more controlled not by political leaders but by people of their close circle. Each leader has a person in his close circle that provides him financially and strengthens his leadership. This is the way how Shamba, Ankvab, Khajimba retain their positions... And Butba is more a businessman than a politician. In the near future clans of these people will definitely come to face each other.

- How Bagapsh's death will affect balance of political forces in Abkhazia? What are the chances of pro-Abkhazian forces in Abkhazia in terms of improvement of political positions?

- Today, the only pronounced pro-Russian force is Sergei Shamba and his team. But he also has certain calculations regarding the west as well. As to Ankvab and Khadzhimba, Khajimba plays between Russian and Abkhazian interests, as he understands that being on just on one side will not bring success. Also it maybe that Ankvab is more pro-Abkhazian leader, but at the same time, he always takes Russia's interests into account.

In general, no leader today can come to become the de facto leader in Abkhazia without taking Russian interests into account, and if such one still comes, it will cause a serious confrontation, which may result in Abkhazia losing what it has today.

- If we analyze theoretical and practical chances, who in Abkhazia today has a chance to lead the de facto authorities in Abkhazia, which leader can become a successor to Bagapsh?

- I think the biggest competition will unfold between Shamba and Ankvab. Today, both are in power and hold some leverage to ensure that the elections are held in their favour. In addition, they have good rating, if we ignore some recent errors of Shamba regarding the church confrontation. I think the fight will be between these two forces.

As to Khajimba, three months is not a short time, during which he can still gain over those veterans who supported Bagapsh, i.e. to gain over support of Amtsakhara. Support of Amtsakhara will have a significant impact on where political forces will be placed.

I think that despite claims of Beslan Butba to come to power, he has no chance.

- Can anything change in the relationship between official Tbilisi and Sukhumi after coming of a new president and new political team to the de facto authorities in Abkhazia?

- I do not expect any changes. Today Abkhazian society is not ready to turn its gaze toward Georgia. Accordingly, a new leader would not impose relations with Georgia and the Georgian leadership on the Abkhazian society. So, whoever comes to power in Abkhazia, none of them will want to delve into any form of relations or rapprochement with Tbilisi.

(Interview recorded on 29.05. 2011)

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