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New Abkhaz President Prepares for Inauguration, But Outgoing Leader Refuses to Resign
/ 5 Dec.'04 / 18:45
Civil Georgia

Sergey Bagapsh will be sworn in as a President
on December 6. Itar-Tass photo.

Opposition leader Sergey Bagapsh plans to be inaugurated as President of breakaway Abkhazia on December 6; but the two-month-old crisis in the unrecognized republic is still far from being resolved, as outgoing President Vladislav Ardzinba condemns the inauguration as illegal and refuses to step down.

Sergey Bagapsh and pro-governmental presidential contender Raul Khajimba, who is backed by Vladislav Ardzinba as well as Russia, held talks overnight on December 4-5 in an attempt to reach a compromise, but after the talks both Khajimba and Bagapsh said that no agreement was reached. Khajimba still insists that a revote of disputed October 3 presidential elections be held, while Bagapsh refuses to give up his plans to be inaugurated.

“The presidential inauguration will definitely take place on December 6,” Russian news agencies reported quoting Bagapsh as saying on December 5.

The presidential inauguration Ceremony, which is scheduled to start at 11 am Moscow time on December 6, will be modest and will last for an hour, Sokrat Jinjolia, chief of the Bagapsh election headquarters told RIA Novosti news agency on December 5.

Jinjolia said that the Abkhaz Interior Ministry forces, which last month sided with Bagapsh, will be in charge of security at the ceremony.
 
The crisis in Abkhazia erupted after the first ever contested presidential elections occurred in the region on October 3. On October 11 the Abkhaz Central Election Commission declared Sergey Bagapsh President-elect, with 50.08% of the vote. However, pro-governmental candidate Raul Khajimba challenged this decision at the Supreme Court.

Late on October 28 the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Khajimba and confirmed Bagapsh as the winner of the October 3 elections.
 
However, following the court’s ruling, Khajimba supporters stormed the court building and in the early hours of October 29, Judge Giorgi Akaba announced the Supreme Court’s new decision, which oveturned the earlier verdict and ordered a re-vote to be held, as demanded by Khajimba. Later on October 29, Giorgi Akaba admitted that the court was under pressure by Khajimba’s supporters and the ruling was not valid.

The crisis escalated further on November 12 after supporters of  opposition candidate Sergey Bagapsh burst into several major governmental buildings and captured breakaway Abkhazia’s governmental offices. A ricocheting bullet killed an elderly woman during clashes on November 12.

The strength of Khajimba’s opposition ability had been gradually waning and took a serious blow after both the Parliament and Council of Elders of Abkhazia recognized Bagapsh as the president-elect.

Russia, which backs Raul Khajimba and also insists on repeat elections, imposed sanctions on Abkhazia by halting its railway link with the de facto republic and banned the import of agricultural products from Abkhazia in an attempt to mount pressure on Bagapsh.

Unlike, Moscow, the Georgia side refrained from meddling in the crisis until recently. On December 3, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili recognized Sergey Bagapsh as the President-elect of the breakaway region; however he still condemned the October 3 presidential polls in Abkhazia as “illegitimate.”

Saakashvili said that Tbilisi is ready to hold peace talks over the Abkhaz conflict resolution only with Bagapsh, who represents the majority of the population that currently lives in Abkhazia.

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