Opposition leader wins 'illegal' Abkhazia presidential poll

25th August 2014, Comments 0 comments

An opposition leader emerged victorious in the presidential vote in the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia, authorities said on Monday, in an election denounced as illegal by the European Union and Georgia.

Raoul Khadjimba, 56, the leader of the republic's main opposition group, won Sunday's election outright in the first round by taking 50.57 percent of the vote, the local election commission said.

His main rival was 51-year-old Asslan Bjania, a former head of national security, who took 35.91 percent of the vote.

Both are graduates of the Soviet KGB training school in Moscow, and are considered pro-Russian.

Abkhazia, which is recognised only by a handful of states including Russia, called snap elections following the resignation of former president Alexander Ankvab in June.

Blamed by his opponents for Abkhazia's economic and social troubles, Ankvab stepped down in the face of large-scale opposition protests.

Khadjimba played a key role in the protests that forced Ankvab to resign.

The European Union has already said that it "does not recognise" the election, saying in a statement that it "supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia."

Georgia over the weekend called the election a "violation of fundamental principles of international law, primarily those of national sovereignty," according to the Russian news agency Interfax.

A lush strip of land on the balmy Black Sea coast, Abkhazia is home to some 240,000 people and is heavily dependent on Russian aid.

Abkhaz separatists declared independence after driving out Georgian troops in a civil war in the 1990s that killed several thousand people and forced a quarter of a million, mostly ethnic Georgians, out of the region.

Moscow recognised Abkhazia as independent in the wake of Russia's brief war with Georgia in 2008 and permanently stationed thousands of troops at military bases there in a move that Tbilisi describes as an occupation.

© 2014 AFP

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