A Stand for Sovereignty: Abkhazian Opposition Launches New Political Platform

From left to right: Leuan Lagulaa, Levan Mikaa, Tengiz Dzhopua, Lasha Zukhba, Alkhas Dzhindzholia and Akhra Bzhania

From left to right: Leuan Lagulaa, Levan Mikaa, Tengiz Dzhopua, Lasha Zukhba, Alkhas Dzhindzholia and Akhra Bzhania.

SUKHUM / AQW'A — In Sukhum, on Monday, 8 January 2024, a critical press conference unfolded where opposition leaders forcefully denounced the ratification of the "Pitsunda state dacha agreement". Asserting its illegality, they highlighted violations of parliamentary procedures, the Constitution of Abkhazia, and various laws. This significant move included their withdrawal from the current opposition bloc, coupled with a firm commitment to establish a new platform aimed at countering the government's actions, perceived as detrimental to the nation's sovereignty.

The conference, which brought together notable Abkhazian figures, focused on scrutinising the recent parliamentary decision to transfer part of Pitsunda's territory to the Russian Federation's Federal Security Service, marking a critical juncture in the nation's political landscape.

Akhra Bzhania, a former parliamentarian and leader of the veteran organisation "Ahyatsa," condemned the ratification as illegal. He stressed that it contravened the constitutional law governing the People's Assembly's procedures:

"The People's Assembly's regulations, as a constitutional law, clearly outline the decision-making process. Specifically, it stipulates the timing of session meetings, with exceptions only in cases of war, emergency, or terrorist acts. This is the first time I've seen constitutional and ordinary legislation amendments being made outside of prescribed parliamentary procedures. The process requires bringing the issue to a committee meeting for a vote, then to the parliament for a first reading. The adoption of these amendments, bypassing these steps, is an act of desperation by the deputies to pass this law. I find this absolutely unacceptable and believe it has caused serious damage to our society, contrasting starkly with the president's opinion and the majority of deputies who voted in that session."

Levan Mikaa, the leader of the Committee for the Protection of the Sovereignty of the Republic of Abkhazia, highlighted the internal rift within the opposition. Ratified by Abkhaz parliament deputies on the night of December 27, the agreement transferred the "Pitsunda" state dacha to Russian jurisdiction. While some in the opposition viewed the ratification as a victory, others at the press conference labelled it a self-deception, rejecting the proposed compromise. The compromise involved adopting additional laws that supposedly would later modify the agreement to favour Abkhazia's interests. Mikaa informed that no such beneficial changes were made to the agreement. The Committee's unequivocal demand was to cancel the parliamentary session, revoke the agreement, form a conciliation commission, align the agreement's text with Abkhazia's Constitution and laws, and then resubmit it for ratification. Instead, Mikaa accused the deputies of making a secretive decision early in the morning, in violation of their own regulations.

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Public figure Tengiz Dzhopua criticised the opposition for failing to effectively rally support against governmental decisions. He observed a trend of state coups and a growing division in society based on attitudes towards national sovereignty. Dzhopua warned of the danger of conflating public dissent with anti-Russian sentiment, a tactic he believes could undermine the legitimacy of genuine concerns about national sovereignty and democratic governance.

Alkhas Dzhindzholia, representing the Expert Fund "Amtaa" and a former deputy, emphasized the blurring lines between governmental branches, indicating a shift towards centralization of power. "The distinction between government branches has virtually disappeared. The executive branch has overshadowed the legislative and judicial branches. The matter of controlling the press seems to be next. This should be a cause for concern. What is being portrayed as a victory or success is actually a shift in how decisions are made. Now, after the holidays, the president is likely to introduce a slew of laws, and we can predict how they'll be processed. The division in our country is no longer political; it's about the sovereignty of Abkhazia and its existence as an independent state. We're facing a stark division: either negotiate and compromise or maintain a firm stance on our position. There's a lack of clear, strong, and frequent voicing that a course towards dismantling Abkhazia's sovereignty is underway. If this trend continues, we might soon face a simple yet profound choice: either live as a formally independent entity, now spoken of with disdain, or become part of another state. For everyone here, this is an unacceptable scenario."

Journalist Marianna Kotova questioned the opposition's credibility, noting their failure to prevent the ratification despite previous assurances. In response, Levan Mikaa clarified their consistent efforts to raise awareness about the agreement's dangers and mobilise public support against it.

Natali Smyr, another former deputy and "Amtaa" Expert Fund representative, expressed disappointment not only in the opposition's efforts but also in the public's response. She called for shared responsibility in opposing governmental decisions that undermine national integrity and sovereignty:

"I call upon the people of Abkhazia to share in our responsibility. I am disappointed not only in our efforts but also in our people's reluctance to step out of their comfort zone. The night of the 26th saw few people supporting us at the parliament. The imbalance of power is evident. I specifically address Lasha Ashuba, the parliamentary speaker, who should not have convened an extraordinary session and violated both the spirit and letter of the law. The 26 deputies who voted for the agreement are traitors. The document they presented was prepared well in advance. They label themselves as 'trying,' but their efforts fell short. I agree with this sentiment."

War veteran Lasha Zukhba expressed his sense of betrayal by the government over the Pitsunda agreement ratification:

"I feel utterly deceived by my government, parliament, and head of state. How is this even possible? I fear waking up to a reality where not just Pitsunda, but all of Abkhazia, ceases to exist. The government, like vampires, could clandestinely decide our fate and declare our existence over. How do I explain to my children the purpose of our war and the sacrifice of thousands of our citizens? The Georgian government, with whom we have conflicted, has even proposed buying our allegiance. This is absolutely unacceptable. We must continue to fight, as we have lost control over a significant portion of our country, a defeat in my eyes. We've lost sovereignty over part of our territory, setting a dangerous precedent. I fear waking up in a completely different country."

The discussion turned to the potential adoption of a law on foreign agents in Abkhazia. Levan Mikaa expressed fears that such a law would stifle independent media and civil society, pushing the country towards totalitarianism. He emphasised the opposition's resolve to counteract this trend and preserve the nation's democratic foundations and civil liberties.

In summary, the press conference in Sukhum unveiled deep political rifts and a growing sense of urgency among Abkhazian opposition leaders. Their collective stance against the "Pitsunda agreement" and the current government's policies reflects a broader concern for the future of Abkhazia's sovereignty and democratic integrity.




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