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Political standoff in Abkhazia growing into long-term conflict

Raul Khajimba. Photo: ApsnyPress

The “people’s gathering” promised by the Abkhazian opposition appeared to be a rally involving 1,000 people at best. Although an agreement was signed late at night and the opposition forces will now have a range of government posts, the protesters did not achieve their major goal i.e. the president’s resignation. Therefore, the political standoff will grow into a long-term conflict but without street campaigning, at least, at the current stage.

The opposition has set too ambitious goals from the very beginning demanding the president to leave despite the political situation and its own capacities to influence the public. The number of the opposition supporters at the “people’s gathering” showed that the alliance of opposition forces has not enlisted enough public support to start a revolution.

However, the situation is unusual, as the authorities enjoy no public support either. There are no public opinion polls to compare their approval ratings, but it is evident that the people reject politics as such.

Perhaps, this is the most important circumstance and the Abkhazian oppositionists have not taken that into account. This is a bad sign for all the politicians involved in the process. The public does not trust them. This will have consequences.

Provocations, including armed ones, are possible too. On December 14, the State Security Service of Abkhazia has disseminated an audio record of a talk of two activists from Amtsakhara Party. They were discussing among others neutralization of the president. It was a talk of drunk men. Yesterday, one of them, Ramaz Djopua opened the “people’s gathering.” This is another alarming trend, since the agenda of the opposition is being influenced by people with checkered reputation rather than by political leaders having weight in public and political experience.

On December 15, a memorandum was adopted to determine some general, though not the first, principles of the Abkhazian politics, such as, for instance, political processes within the constitution. However, major problems are connected with this very principle now. Thus, a few days before the “gathering,” President Raul Khajimba signed a decree setting the parliamentary elections for March 12 2016.

Perhaps, he did it among others to defuse tensions. It should seem that it is high time to prepare for elections, the more so as it will be hard elections for the authorities. Another important factor is that the country experiencing infrastructure crisis has to overcome a hard and cold winter, after which the authorities will have even fewer supporters. In other words, cynical as it might sound, the opposition has good chances. However, the politicians seek to come to power by the end of the year. Here is the problem that cannot be settled by tactical methods, since one can get out of a crisis and plunge into another one immediately and so on.

Abkhazian parliamentarians actively engaged in settlement of the ongoing political crisis have urged an immediate political reform to change the current rules of the game, that is, to save the country from endless political turbulence.

However, not all problems are in the political field in Abkhazia. An insight into the situation will help understand why the opposition forces do not want to wait until March parliamentary elections and why they make so ambitious demands.

The political crisis will inevitably reflect the economic weakness. Meantime, a growing economy would help creating a competitive environment and work resources including for the political environment. In other words, they have nothing to lose, otherwise they would seek stability. The political environment lacks resources and the people taking to the streets are mostly unemployed. All this just increases tensions in the society. The economic resources are extremely limited. The country lacks markets, industrial sectors, competition – the active part of the people have nothing to so but take to the streets.

On the other hand, one can blame the opposition of cynicism endlessly, since it evidently seeks control over limited resources and Russia’s assistance, but the only chance to “start earning” is to take a full control of what is left. That is why, their major goal is to make the president leave or, at least, to take the government and its economic bloc under control.

Then it will be possible to take control over cash flows of the only two profitable tourist facilities - New Athos Cave and Ritsinsky Reserve or control over customs. And, finally, the grant prize will be the 6.3 billion rubles that theoretically will be used next year under Investment Project for Economic Development of Abkhazia for 2015-2017. Why theoretically? The problem is that the technological process of preparing and approving the design and estimates as usually may take much longer time. Anyway, even 3-4 billion, if not 6 billion, will have a salutary effect on the debt-laden opposition politicians.

That is exactly why they need to come to power now. The fiscal year starts in January, while the elections are scheduled for March. However, the control over the parliament, if it happens, will not give control over financial flows.

The major reason of political turbulence is lack of development. Therefore, nothing inherently depends on arrangements of politicians, possible amendments to election laws and redistribution of the president’s powers. Unfortunately, the crisis will be deepening until serious clashes happen and a group of leaders able to force their views upon other participants in the current processes emerge. It is not a good scenario, but we have learned from history that it is the only possible scenario in such conditions.

Nevertheless, President Raul Khajimba’s talks with Leader of the Opposition Bloc Aslan Bzhania brokered by Defense Minister Mirab Kishmaria were a relative success. Of course, no one would let the opposition overthrow the president or take the economic bloc of the government, but there is still certain “off-set”. The opposition holds the posts of attorney general and one of the deputy prime ministers.

In addition, the alliance of opposition forces will have an opportunity to appoint two judges of the Constitutional Court and delegate its representatives to the Central Election Commission. Besides, Parliament Speaker Valery Bganba promised to redistribute the powers of the president. This will certainly change the political situation in the country and, maybe, even make it possible to avoid shocks until the parliamentary elections of the next spring.

Anton Krivenyuk special for EADaily

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