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Entries in Republic of Abkhazia (10)


Chirikba Appointed Foreign Minister

Today, Viacheslav Chirikba was appointed Foreign Minister of the Republic of Abkhazia by President Aleksandr Ankvab.  Mr. Chirikba is well-known inside and outside of Abkhazia and is both a diplomat and a linguistics scholar. The appointment was made in Abkhazia's capital, Sukhum

A short time ago, I spoke to Mr. Chirikba and offered my congratulations.  In keeping with Abkhaz traditions of a free press, he mentioned that the Abkhazia government is open and transparent and he is prepared for interviews with western media. 


More On Abkhazia's Election

Over the last several days, I have had a number of inquiries from observers about current events in Abkhazia. Several asked about what I observed during the election and what it means for stability.

As I mentioned before, I went to several polling stations and all seemed fair and democractic.  I spoke to a number of  election observers over the next several days and did not hear a complaint about the electoral process. I did hear several remarks that Abkhazia is apparently further along the path of democracy than many of the nations that refuse to recognize it.  This is not the only criteria in the recognition process, but it is an important indicator of what Abkhazia has achieved despite enormous difficulties.  Although only a handful of nations now recognize Abkhazia, I heard recently that several are seriously considering the move.

Abkhazia is a stable place.  There is no sense of unrest or political instability.  Russian troops are not patrolling the streets nor are Russian officials manning the organs of government.  It is a calm and peaceful nation working to develop and integrate with the rest of the world, despite all of the misinformation and propaganda spread by political leaders in the Republic of Georgia.  

I hope that foreign policy experts, tourists and investors will not be dissuaded by the misinformation. If they investigate Abkhazia, they will see the same thing I see: a beautiful, underdeveloped, subtropical paradise for tourists just across the border from one of the world's largest markets.  I spoke to several election observers who saw things the same way.

All three of the Presidential candidates, including President-Elect Ankvab, stressed that Abkhazia needs to seek outside investment and political ties.  Although President Bagapsh died, this reality has not changed. 


Election Results

Yesterday, on the third anniversay of Russia's recognition of Abkhazia's independence, Aleksandr Ankvab was elected President of the Republic of Abkhazia.  Mr. Ankvab received 54.86% of the vote.  His rivals, Sergey Shamba and Raul Khajimba, received 21.04% and 19.83%, respectively. Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev has already called Mr. Ankvab to congratulate him on his victory.  

The election saw a strong turnout, with 71.92% of eligible voters participating.  I visited several polling stations in Novy Afon and Sukhum.  Also, I spoke to observers from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Russia and other nations.  Polling was well organized and the voting was characterized as free and fair.

As the news spread late last night of the result in Mr. Ankvab's favor, Sukhum was calm and peaceful.  A few supporters spread through town with Abkhaz flags attached to their cars and others could be heard toasting to Abkhazia's future.  Abkhazia, although small, is clearly both independent and democratic.  The maturity of democratic institutions in Abkhazia should serve as model to others in the Caucasus Region.  Congratulations!!


Sukhum at Sunset- Election Day, August 26, 2011


Election Tomorrow In Abkhazia

Tomorrow sees the Republic of Abkhazia going to the polls in an election to replace President Sergey Bagpash who died unexpectedly May 29.  The three candidates are Vice President Aleksandr Ankvab, Prime Minister Sergey Shamba and former Vice President Raul Khajimba.  Several polls were done early in August, but the outcome seems far from certain. 

The border crossing with Russia was busy all week with buses of tourists from Krasnodar, Rostov, Stavropol and as far as Moscow keeping the lines long.  The border is now busy around the clock.  Along with tourists, many election observers were crossing the border from Russia.  The Republic of Abkhazia looks to see observers from as many as 80 nations.  People here expect a free and fair election.

This week in Abkhazia saw warm, but pleasant days and nights.  Daytime highs of about 25 were prevalent in coastal areas.  The election was on people's minds, being a common topic of conversation.  However, it was far from the only issue being discussed.  Fresh fruit is ripening and the stalls and markets are full of fresh peaches, grapes,watermelons and apples.



Thursday, August 11, 2011

This afternoon, I walked around central Sukhum listening to the English Beat on my iphone.  Although I am sure  I was the only American in the capital listening to Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling singing "Stand Down Margret", that one American still outnumbered the Russian soldiers seen in the capital of supposedly "occupied" Abkhazia.  That got me to thinking about the things that are not seen or do not happen in the Republic of Abkhazia.  I have never been told not to photograph something.  I have never been told who to talk to or who to meet.  In fact, I have been encouraged to talk to whomever I want, including journalists.  It has been made clear to me that I can travel to any area in Abkhazia that I wish.  I take these things for granted.  But I realized with the prevailing media narrative in the West about Abkhazia, many people probably are laboring under false assumptions about Abkhazia.

I spent part of an afternoon this week at Amra Cafe.  Amra sits on a dock built over the Black Sea.  It has a spectacular view of the sea, the city and the mountains and a rustic charm.  It was so pleasant to be there, the only fault I can find was with my internet connection.  While I was trying to get connected, I met Albert and Viktor, shown in the above photo.  They were very friendly, even more when I told them I was from the U.S. Viktor is a polyglot who speaks not only Russian and Armenian, but also French, Italian and some English.  We talked about Abkhazia history for some time.  Also, we spoke about the recent death of President Bagapsh and the upcoming election.  The Abkhaz are engaged with current events, but calm.  Of course, this is nothing new. The election will be the 5th Presidential election in Abkhazia's short history.  Since Abkhazia became independent from Georgia, there has never been a violent or revolutionary transfer of power.  Abkhazia is building a civil and democratic society.