Sun, 26 Jan 2020

The de facto president of the self-declared republic of Abkhazia, a breakaway region of Georgia whose independence is recognized only by Russia and a few others, has stepped down amid sometimes violent protests that erupted over what his opponents say was an illegitimate electoral victory.

With Abkhaz leader Raul Khajimba out of the picture -- at least for now -- and new elections scheduled, where do things stand in the impoverished and increasingly isolated South Caucasus territory?

A Crisis Unfolds

Khajimba's January 13 resignation put an end to four days of protests that saw the storming of the de facto presidential administration in Sukhumi, efforts by Moscow to mediate, and the calling of a fresh vote to determine the region's next de facto president.

The crisis erupted on January 9, when hundreds of protesters descended on the building that housed Khajimba's administration as the territory's highest court resumed hearings on an appeal of the results of the second round of the 'presidential' election held in September.

Alkhas Kvitsinia of the Amtsakhara party -- who became the main challenger after leading opposition candidate Aslan Bzhania fell ill due to suspected poisoning -- filed the appeal after garnering 46 percent of the vote to Khajimba's 47 percent, according to official results.

Electoral authorities approved the incumbent's election to another five-year term, but Kvitsinia argued that the fact Khajimba had failed to reach the required majority nullified the vote. He demanded a fresh election.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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