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An attack on sovereignty, by Inal Khashig

Ekho Kavkaza -- Trying to kill Aleksandr Ankvab has almost become a bad habit. He was shot at when he was prime minister. They tried to kill him when he was vice-president. And as we now see, they don't intend to leave him in peace now he is president. Although people were injured in the five earlier attempts, no one was killed. And in light of the fact that the previous attacks were never solved, his detractors (and Ankvab has more than enough of them) were able to speculate that the crimes were faked, even that Ankvab himself may have staged those attacks. I don't rule out the possibility that this time, when people have been killed, people will again try to promulgate this hypothesis. Let God be their judge. What interests me is the motives for the murder attempt.

However paradoxical it may sound, it is President Aleksandr Ankvab who has recently emerged as the biggest critic of the present authorities. In the past week alone, he has targeted the Interior Ministry with all its ancillaries, purged the Prosecutor General's office, dismissing two of the prosecutor-general's deputies, suspended the work of the Migration Service, and dismantled the Gagra district economic staff. He has spoken openly, without any circumlocutions or beating about the bush, about corruption, the illegal sale of passports, citizenship and land, about money embezzled and inept officials who terrorize both business and the man in the street. And that criticism is not unfounded – he cites facts and figures, many of which until now were completely unknown, or known only to a very narrow circle of those in power.

Some have suggested that such a large-scale purge of the state apparatus, which naturally extends to the head of state, was a kind of well thought-out public relations campaign in the run-up to the parliamentary elections. I think this version is too simple, even primitive. The country's parliament is constructed in such a way that whoever is elected to it, whatever its composition, it is inevitably doomed to become subservient to the will of the president. You must agree that casting pearls before the electorate for the sake of elections whose outcome is a foregone conclusion is not very clever! Ankvab is perfectly aware of this. In addition, promulgating empty threats to generate questionable publicity is not his style.

For the past seven years, when he was not yet head of state, Ankvab kept quiet and was not that active, to put it mildly, when it came to maintaining law and order. Now he is constantly criticized for that failure. Why, people ask, did he not try to do anything before, even though he had the necessary leverage and authority to do so? Yes, he was prime minister, vice-president - senior positions, you can't deny it! But ever since Abkhazia acquired statehood, it is the president who has usurped the right to "try to solve" issues. All other institutions of power are doomed to play only the role of important elements of the  state machine that appear to be essential in accordance with tables of democratic ranking, but in fact are absolutely useless and ineffective.

Any prominent political figure, no matter how dazzling his charisma, will be forcibly expelled from the system in the blink of an eye if he dares to act contrary to the established order of things. However gross it may sound, under President Bagapsh the "iron" Ankvab, acutely aware how dubious his status was, voluntarily restricted his activity to the level of zits-chairman Pound. But unlike Ilf and Petrov's character, Ankvab doggedly waited in the wings, convinced that his time will come. And he has finally taken the helm.

Despite the external appearance of calm, Aleksandr Ankvab attained the presidency in an extremely difficult situation. The level of corruption in the country has reached such proportions that sovereignty itself is at stake. Over the past 10 or so years, public morality has become completely devalued, the level of civic consciousness of the population of Abkhazia is comparable to that of the Delaware Indian tribe who four hundred years ago exchanged their homeland - the island of Manhattan – for beads and a couple of cases of whisky.

Aleksandr Ankvab is now faced with Hamlet's rhetorical question '"to be or not to be?" in all its relentless starkness. He clearly did not want to be a president under whom state sovereignty became a meaningless fig leaf, otherwise they would not have opened fire on him.

This article was published by Ekho Kavkaza and is translated from Russian.


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