The current election campaign of the President of the Republic of Abkhazia is marked by a number of violations.
Even before its formal start, the election campaign was marked by an extraordinary event - the poisoning of the united opposition leader Aslan Bzhania and his two bodyguards. Two independent European laboratories have confirmed the fact of poisoning. Aslan Bzhania’s intention to run for the post of the President of the Republic of Abkhazia renders the most realistic the version of the attempt to remove him as one of the main contenders for the post of head of state. Obviously, no proper investigation by the law enforcement authorities of Abkhazia has been conducted. Meanwhile, an objective investigation is necessary not only to identify and punish the perpetrators of the crime, but also in order to establish to what extent the principle of the Constitutional Law “On the Election of the President of the Republic of Abkhazia” has been respected; the said Law states that “No-one has the right to influence a citizen of the Republic of Abkhazia in order to force him to participate or not to participate in the election of the President of the Republic of Abkhazia” (Article 3).
Under pressure from the opposition forces, the election of the President of the Republic of Abkhazia was postponed for a month after the deadline that had been set and was held on 25 August. It failed to identify a winner, and as a consequence a second ballot was fixed.
Despite the fact that during the second vote presidential candidate R. Khadzhimba gained 1,027 votes more than candidate A. Kvitsinia, in total the number of votes cast for A. Kvitsinia and ‘Against All’ turned out to be more than the votes cast for R. Khadzhimba (2,128 votes). According to Article 19 of the Constitutional Law “On the Election of the President of the Republic of Abkhazia”, on the basis of which the CEC [Central Election Commission] is obliged to establish the results of the ballot, and the candidate shall be considered elected if he receives the second highest number of votes of those who cast their ballot in the election, provided that the number of votes cast for the candidate is more than the number of votes cast against him. In this case, none of the candidates received the required majority of votes, since there were more votes against each of them individually (taking into account the votes ‘Against All’) than the “yes” votes.
Establishing the results of the election of the President of the Republic of Abkhazia, the CEC ignored Part 2 of Article 19 of the law on presidential elections, which reads: “... provided that the number of votes cast for the candidate is greater than the number of votes cast against him ...”. In fact, the CEC did not take into account the will of the 3,155 voters who cast their vote in favour of “Against All”, citing certain informal, non-binding agreements between the candidates. Therefore, the main responsibility for the situation lies with the Central Election Commission, which is obliged to be guided by the provisions of the current legislation in determining the voting results.
Unfortunately, neither Parliament nor other State Institutions, as well as the legal community and public institutions, announced before the second vote that any deviations from the provisions of the law are unacceptable, and that crucial decisions based on behind-the-scenes transactions can have extremely serious negative consequences for the country. A timely response could have prevented the crisis.
Today, the attention of the entire public is riveted on the Supreme Court of the Republic of Abkhazia, which has to make a decision on the actions of the CEC. We hope that the judges, endowed with supreme powers, will base their decision on Article 19 of the Constitutional Law “On the Election of the President of the Republic of Abkhazia”, in accordance with which the results of the election of the President must be ascertained. Only then will society recognise the elections as legitimate and their results to be legitimate.
Our society is experiencing one more critical moment — on the decision of the Supreme Court will depend whether our state will choose the legal path, or whether we are to be subjected to informal rules that serve passing group-interests. In addition, today in Abkhazia, many say that the elections were marked by the massive use of illegal methods of pressure, including bribing voters. If, however, the procedure for summing up the election results is carried out in violation of the law, then citizens' faith in fair elections will be completely undermined, which will inevitably lead to the weakening of all state-institutions.
It is no secret to anyone that in our young state the independence of the court, confirmed by the Constitution, often comes under serious pressure and tests. However, there are crucial moments when this independence and the supreme role that the court should play in a modern democratic state depends on the conscience and professional honour of each member of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Abkhazia.
We hope that the Supreme Court of Abkhazia will fulfil the important mission that is vested in the judiciary in a democratic state subject to the rule of law and will decide in strict accordance with the law.
We urge everyone at this difficult moment to be guided exclusively by the legal code of the Republic and to act within the legal framework.
Irina M. Agrba
The collection of signatures continues...