Opposition in breakaway Abkhazia has called on Abkhaz leader, Sergey Bagapsh, to veto amendment to the law on citizenship making ethnic Georgians residing in the Gali district eligible for Abkhaz citizenship, Abkhaz news agency, Apsnipress, reported.
According to the amendment, passed on July 31 by the Abkhaz parliament, Georgians who returned back to the Gali district for residence before 2005 will be able to obtain the breakaway region’s citizenship.
There are about 50,000 such residents in Gali, according to the speaker of breakaway region’s parliament, Nugzar Ashuba.
He told Apsnipress that the amendment will not apply those who returned to Gali after 2005; they will be able to obtain Abkhaz citizenship after ten years of residence, Ashuba said.
But some opposition groups have condemned the amendment saying that the Parliament “has ignored all the dangerous consequences of this decision.”
“Since that moment [adoption of the amendment] the number of citizens of Abkhazia of the Georgian origin has become equal to the number of citizens of [Abkhazia] of the Abkhaz origin,” they said in a joint statement on August 3.
The statement, signed by Forum of Abkhaz People’s Unity; Aruaa, a union of Abkhaz war veterans and public movement Akhatsa, says that with this amendment to the law “all became equal – those who have fought for the Abkhaz independence and those who have facilitated the Georgian colonial interests.”
The opposition claimed that the decision was made by the authorities ahead of the presidential elections, scheduled for later this year, trying to capitalize on votes of ethnic Georgians living in the Gali district.
“The Parliament Members, who voted for this [amendment], lay the foundation for a new wave of colonization of Abkhazia by Georgians… Because of their [these lawmakers’] efforts we will again become the minority in our motherland,” the statement reads.
Nugzar Ashuba, speaker of the Abkhaz parliament, rejected the allegations and said that only those residents of the Gali district would be eligible for the citizenship, which had not participated in the military hostilities against Abkhazia in early 90s.
He said that residents of the Gali district would also have to renounce their Georgian citizenship in “a written form” to obtain the Abkhaz one.