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Independent observer report of the presidential Election in Abkhazia: 26th August 2011

Oliver DECROCK: I have been invited by Centre for Monitoring Democratic Processes «Quorum» in order to monitor, as an independent observer, the presidential election that took place on the 26th of August 2011. The election was held to elect the successor of President Sergei Bagapsh who died in office on 29 May 2011.

I was part of a delegation of observers from Poland, Ukraine, Moldavia, and Israel…

The following reflects my impressions about the electoral process in Abkhazia

Geopolitical situation of ABKAHZIA:

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Abkhazia which was already recognized as an independent Republic under the USSR by Staline broke away from Tbilisi’s central authority after a independence war that lasted from 1992 to 1993, and established itself as an autonomous Republic.  For 15 years, the country  was under a strong embargo and blockade imposed by Georgia. Today, ruins are still present everywhere.

In 2008, the Russia Federation recognized the statehood of Abkhazia and another Georgian rebel territory, South Ossetia, after a brief war in August 2008, when Russian forces thwarted Tbilisi's military attack on South Ossetia and pushed deep into Georgia.

After 2008, apart from Russia, Abkhazia's sovereignty has only been recognized by four countries, including Venezuala and Nicaragua.

In 2010, Soukhoumi and Moscow signed an agreement that secure Russian military presence in the country for 49 years.  Effectively, Russian military presence which is also present on the border with Georgia secures Abkhazia.

Today Abkhazia counts approx 250.000 inhabitants, 170.000 passports.

Candidates:

3 candidates were nominated for this election: Acting President Alexander Ankvab, Prime Minister Sergei Shamba and opposition leader Raul Khajimba.

Organization:

The delegation arrived in Abkhazia on the 25th of August via Sotchi. We were hosted in Pitzunda.

 

At the border, arriving in Abkhazia on the 25th of August

At the border, arriving in Abkhazia on the 25th of August

Polling Stations:

Most polling stations are located in school building. After getting our accreditations, we visited 8 polling stations, which were located on school buildings, some of them freshly painted. In each polling station electoral list are displayed publically:

Abkhazian voters have the ability the review the resume of each candidates and the electoral list

Abkhazian voters have the ability the review the resume of each candidates and the electoral list

Each candidate has a representative in the polling station in order to monitor the election process

Ballots are scelled              A voting booth

Ballots are scelled                                   A voting booth

We have had open access to the voting station. The general atmosphere was casual, people were queuing quietly.

The passport is used as a voting card  Each passport gets stamped in order to avoid fraud   Voters have to sign a registry

The passport is used as a voting card. Each passport gets stamped in order to avoid fraud. Voters have to sign a registry.

Press Center:

In the afternoon our delegation joined the press center where an official press conference has been held. We also had opportunities to meet with Liberation (French newspaper) and France 24.

 Participation rate displayed at the press cente  Press center

Participation rate displayed at the press center.    Press center.

Interview with European media journalist

Interview with European media journalist

Results:

According to the Abkhazian electoral commission, preliminary results communicated in the evening of the 26th of August showed a 54.86% first round victory for Ankvab over Shamba (21.04%) and Khajimba (19.83%). Ankvab’s election was confirmed the day after as we were already heading back to Moscow via Soukhoumi.

Conclusion:

Based on what I have seen, I can conclude that this election complies with our western democracy standards.

This short stay in Abkhazia has been a unique opportunity for us to discover hospitality of the people of Abkhazia and to realize its potential of development.

After these elections, Ankvab will have to drive the necessary reforms in order to pursue the recovery of the country (as he said from “elevators repair in buildings to railway infrastructures”). Despite its still controversial statehood, citizens of Abkhazia and its political class have demonstrated their genuine commitment to democracy. This is an important step forward for Abkhazia.

After the elections, open future for Abkhazia…

After the elections, open future for Abkhazia…

Oliver DECROCK

PRG93

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