The president of Abkhazia and his recent political foes abandon hostilities for a display of national unity.
By Inal Khashig in Sukhum
Abkhazia’s divided elite signed an unprecedented declaration last week committing them to display unity against what they said was a threat of aggression from the Georgian government.
President Sergei Bagapsh, Vice-President Raul Khajimba, Prime Minister Alexander Ankvab and Speaker of Parliament Nuzgar Ashuba were the first to put their names to the common declaration on February 16, affirming their desire to have the unrecognised republic, which seceded de facto from Georgia in 1993, recognised as an independent state.
A comprehensive list of public figures then added their signatures, including the heads of regional assemblies, representatives of religious and ethnic minorities and the heads of governmental and non-governmental organisations.
The initiative for this unprecedented common front came as Bagapsh celebrated his first year in power, after a bitterly fought presidential election campaign with Khajimba, who ultimately became his vice-president under a compromise deal. The idea for the document came from the opposition movement Forum for National Unity.
In an interview with IWPR on the eve of the signing of the document, the Abkhaz leader said he had devoted his first year in office to healing the wounds caused by the 2004 election struggle which brought Abkhazia to the brink of civil war.
“No one is asking anyone to love the president and I am not planning to go to the marriage bureau with anyone,” Bagapsh told IWPR. “I have my wife and we have been together for 30 years. But we should love our homeland and our people, and we should understand one thing – that any internal political discord will only lead to the weakening of Abkhaz statehood.
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