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Georgia: Separatist Abkhaz Region Reports Parliamentary Election Results

Sukhumi, 25 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - The Abkhaz electoral commission announced yesterday that 26 candidates won seats to the separatist region's parliament in Saturday's legislative elections.

Itar-Tass quoted Abkhaz Electoral Commission head Vyacheslav Tsugba as saying 26 candidates won more than 50 percent of the votes in their districts. Runoff elections will have to be held for the remaining nine seats in the 35-member parliament.

Abkhaz election officials say 80 percent of the separatist area's 216,000 eligible voters took part in the vote. Absent were some 300,000 ethnic Georgians, who fled the region after the outbreak of fighting in 1992. Abkhazia broke away from Georgia the following year, but has not gained international recognition.

Georgia has condemned the ballot as illegal, saying voting should only be allowed after refugees return to the region. Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba, said yesterday he believes the elections will not harm peace negotiations with Georgia.

But several landmine explosions along the Georgian-Abkhaz border yesterday threatened to increase tensions between Sukhumi and Tbilisi. No casualties were reported, but the Abkhaz interior ministry blamed the explosions on the Georgian government. Tbilisi rejected the accusations.