Abkhaz Opposition Refuses to Work with Newly Formed Government

SUKHUMI, Abkhazia – Opposition parties in Georgia’s Russian-occupied breakaway region Abkhazia have refused to participate in a newly formed rebel government headed by the separatist Prime Minister Beslan Bartsits, news agency Kavkaz-uzel reported Wednesday.

Bartsits, who was appointed as prime minister on August 5, said his government is willing to negotiate with the leading opposition parties to reduce escalating political tensions in the Black Sea region.

“I held consultations with all the political factions regarding their direct participation in the new government. Despite having come to a mutual understanding on a whole host of issues, these (opposition) parties have refused to cooperate with my government,” said Bartsits.

“Despite the failure of the opposition to work with the government, we are ready for any form of constructive dialogue that would resolve the situation,” Bartsits added in an interview published on the rebel government’s official Web site.

The opposition is led by the Amtsakhara political party, an influential nationalist union whose nucleus is made of veterans of the bloody 1992-93 war against Georgia.

The Abkhaz opposition has been at odds with the breakaway region’s staunchly pro-Russian President Raul Khajimba for the better part of a year. Deeply dissatisfied with the activities of Khajimba’s government, Amtsakhara and other opposition leaders triggered a referendum on early presidential elections on July 10.

Turn out for the referendum was surprisingly low, with only 1.23 per cent of the region’s voters cast a ballot. The lack of public participation prompted Khajimba’s government to declare the referendum as invalid.

Responding to the government’s handling of the referendum, Abkhazia’s opposition parties organized protest rallies outside the breakaway region’s interior ministry building in the capital Sukhumi, demanding the resignation of then-minister Leonid Dzapshba. The protests later turned violent as the opposition stormed the interior ministry’s offices.

Khajimba has yet to name a replacement for Dzapshba, who resigned in August to take up a position in the presidential administration.

Amtsakhara has thus far refused to accept a cabinet post in the new government, saying their participation is impossible as “the authorities have failed to fulfil any of their electoral promises and have actively attempted to crack down on the opposition.”

“Our participation in the work of the current government would be a betrayal of the interests of all Abkhaz citizens,” Amtsakhara said in an official statement published on its Web site.

Amtsakhara accuses Khajimba of illegally detaining its supporters and forcing state-run business to sack hundreds of employees who show open support for opposition parties.

They also claim the current government has failed to improve living standards in the occupied region by increasing pensions and investing in wage and social benefit hikes.

Russian-backed rebels in Abkhazia broke away from Georgia immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Moscow occupied and effectively annexed the area, as well as Georgia’s other breakaway South Ossetia region.

Moscow recognized South Ossetia and the other occupied Abkhazia region as independent states following the 2008 war. International law and the United Nations continue to state that the regions remain part of Georgia.

By Nicholas Waller

Photos: Sputnik

1. Abkhaz President Raul Khajimba

2. Amtsakhara supporters in Sukhumi

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