Preliminary outcomes of the parliamentary elections in Abkhazia have been published. 22 constituencies of 35 will face a run off. In one more constituency, re-elections are to be held.
There are some unexpected outcomes.
The key intrigue of the campaign was participation of the former president Alexander Ankvab. But his victory in the first voting was quite expected.
Generally, the opposition has shown fine results. The re-election is to be held in the constituency where Leonid Lakerbaia, the ex-prime minister was running. One of the opposition leaders, former chief of the State Security Service Aslan Bzhania is running for the second round.
One of the most influential politicians within the whole post-Soviet period of Abkhazia, Sergey Shamba, lost the election. Former foreign minister, scientist Vyacheslav Chirikba lost the race too, as well as the chair of the previous parliament Valery Bganba.
Thus, one can conclude that the major political consequence of the parliamentary elections in Abkhazia can be a green light for Alexander Ankvab on his way to the post of parliamentary speaker: there will be no heavy-weights like him at the National Assembly.
Outcomes of the political parties that participated in the elections are rather limited. Both Amtsakhara and Ainar parties can hope only for three-four seats at the parliament, be the run off successful for them.
However, the pro-governmental wing may also fail to compose. It is yet evident that there will many MPs who have not gained political authority, they are still not known widely. In this sense, the new parliament is showing that politics is no longer connected with governance; it is accessible to everyone, while the legislative branch is not about lawmaking, but about a place to speak for dozens of ambitious “new politicians.”
The current outcomes of the election campaign let us make several forecasts. First, it was a protest voting and comparatively fine results of the opposition politicians have shown that the level of social protest is growing.
Second, the campaign has shown once again that a kind of a two-party system has established in Abkhazia but with local peculiarities that deny any advantages of the classical liberal democracy.
The opposition and its key leaders have a solid electoral base. If they hold back their ambitions and start investing into raising their successors, in some time this can become the basis for a classical strong and, probably, almost consistently ruling political force.
However, now the conflict between two levels of the Abkhazian society is based not on ideological, political or any other rational contradictions, but on growing personal enmity, which is natural for the small self-isolated society that has no resources for development.
That is why the word “disruption” is the most precise for comprehending processes in the Abkhazian politics.
Evidently, the opposition will keep on pressing the weakening president Raul Khadzhimba. However, while Khadzhimba becomes weaker in politics, he is not in terms of power. The power element has always been important in the Abkhazian politics, and yet the pro-government forces have the better hand in it. Anyway, the president will most probably complete his term in time and resign by the fall of 2019.
Therefore, the opposition will be gaining strength with the help of new tools; this means further growth of political instability. Meanwhile, preparations for the presidential race will start as early as next year. Even if things are fine, it is unrealistic to speak of the country going back to the development track until 2020. In the situation when social policy fails, without economy and with hardly functioning essential services, life in Abkhazia will be dark and hard.
The parliamentary elections have indicated another significant thing, which is extreme accessibility of power to everyone. Neither social merits nor professional competences play a role. Nothing does, as the electorate may choose everyone to the legislative body. At the same time, the current system is pushing away intellectuals and managers, as they are speaking of too complicated things for the voters.
Evidently, the opposition leaders are trying to regain power. But it looks like they believe that this will put an end to the Abkhazian civil strife. However, most probably, scenarios of confrontations will become more different. No other social lifts are functioning, and entering politics is the only opportunity “to do something” with their lives for many people who have no things to do. The system has shown that the power is accessible. It means that the whole group of “politicians” will be fighting for any resource that will allow capitalizing their nominal status. It will turn into many confrontations. They will need to respect anyone to stay in power. That is why any next regime is doomed to be weaker than the previous one; the power will be able to preserve only two of its capacities: fight for self-preservation and dynamic plundering of the state budget, as far as they have time.
As many as two presidents, previous Ankvab and current Khadzhimba, have decided against undermining the administrative system that turned Abkhazia into a country of social servants. This reality secures some level of social stability. Now, the true fight will start for getting this money.
The second significant package is the money aimed for rehabilitation of the infrastructure; they are coming from the Russian budget. Probably, these programs will be continued and it is hard to overestimate their role now. The money is supposed to preserve the roads and make the communal system working. As long as the country has a comparatively strong government ready to be held responsible for capital investments, the money fulfills its task. But if the money goes to groups replacing each other at power institutions it will be more effective to give it to non-governmental sector – NGOs and social agencies.
To cut it short, the Abkhazian parliamentary elections have made it clear that the crisis of government is deepening, while economic and social reforms are postponed for indefinite time.
Anton Krivenyuk, specially for EADaily