With the Abkhazian presidential elections quickly approaching the eyes of the world are turned to the tiny corner of the Caucasus eager for news of who will be the next leader of the disputed region.
With observers from 23 countries gathering to monitor elections and increasing tensions being seen across the region Abkhazia’s elections are proving already to be a hot topic in the Caucasus. Here we give you a run down of the election’s four candidates; who they are, what they stand for and their backgrounds before the election.
At 18 Dzapshba did a two-year service in the Soviet Army before studying at the school of Cheboksary Police MVD. After graduating he joined the Tomsk Oblast Executive Committee police department where he worked for almost 8 years.
In 1988 Dzapshba was accepted into the Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Upon his graduation he joined the MIA, where he spent the rest of his career. After more than 20 years with the department he became Abhkazia’s Minister for Internal Affairs in 2010.
Dzapshba is also a self-styled sports fan. In 2007 became President of the Football Federation of Abkhazia.
As a police officer-turned-politician Dzapshba has worked his way up from the bottom. His life in politics was defined by his experience and long-standing commitment to his office, until a string of later scandals marred his otherwise spotless career.
In October 2011 Dzapshba retired from his post as Minister of Internal Affairs after a scandal involving the illegal issuance of passports was revealed in his department. Later, in 2012 Dzapshba was charged with the embezzlement of almost 8,000,000 rubles as President of the Football Federation of Abkhazia. It was alledged that the money was spent of the purchase of cars and plane tickets for him and his family. Dzapshba denied the claims, stating that the misplaced money had been used for the construction of football stadiums.
As a long-standing career man and Major General of Abkhazia’s militia Dzapshba is backed by supporters of his party the Civil Union of Abkhazia, who are seen as supporters of law and stability. Dzapshba however is seen as the least likely to win the elections, with some stating that his candidacy will be supported as a protest vote for many Abkhazians.
During the 1992-93 war with Georgia Kishmaria made a name for himself as a highly prized commander. After the war he entered politics, being named as Abkhazia’s deputy defence minister. In 2007 he was promoted to the post of defence minister, a role which he still holds.
Kishamria holds multiple decorations from the governments of the USSR, Afghanistan and Abkhazia. He is viewed by many people as a patriot and a war hero.
Kishmaria is an independent candidate with no political party, though his strong support for the military has gained him followers Amtsakhara party, a pro-military lobby created by former veterans. He is expected to sway many of Abkhazia’s militaristic voters.
Aslan Bzhania entered politics in his 20s as an activist for Komsomol, the youth division of the Soviet Communist Party. He later joined the KGB, where he worked until joining Abkhazia’s state security service in 1992.
Bzhania left Abkhazia after the 1992-93 war with Georgia to pursue business opportunities in Moscow. He is a successful businessman who has been engaged in various commercial ventures in Russia since 1994.
In 2009 and 2010 Bzhania served as an advisor at the Abkhazian diplomatic representation in Moscow. He was later named head of State Security Service in Abkhazia.
As the election’s most business-minded candidate Bzhania is backed by several businessmen and oligarchs with ties to Russia and Abkhazia. He is a self-made man and an opportunist who has continued to keep close to the republic’s government.
However despite his businessman status Bzhania is seen by many as a man of the people. It is hoped by many that if elected he will be able to bring state support and investment to the impoverished and developing rural communities of Abkhazia. He is also backed by much of the current outgoing government of Abkhazia.
Raul Khajimba was a long standing officer in the KGB who lost to former president of Abkhazia Sergei Bagapshin the 2004 elections, despite large support from Russian authorities.
Khajimba later ran for as vice-presidental candidate to Bagpash in the repeat vote. He retired shortly from politics in 2009 after disagreements with the president of Abkhazia.
In the same year he ran again against Bagpash, losing once more. In 2011 dropped to third place in the polls, with just 19.8% of the votes.
As a long running member of the opposition and a seasoned politician with experience in the presidential elections many have placed Khajimba as the favourite in Abkhazia’s upcoming election. Recent opinion polls indicated that Khajimba is likely to secure over 50% of the votes, making him a forerunner in the election.
Khajimba is backed by parties aligned with with Abkhazia’s Coordinating Council, 14 parties in total. He is also seen to appeal to Abkhazia’s intelligentsia, as well as small and medium business owners.
The Abkhazia presidential elections will be held on August 24th. For up-to-date coverage as it occurs follow CEN on Twitter.