Three months after his defeat in the December 10 presidential election, former Abkhaz Vice President Raul Khajimba convened a press conference in Sukhumi on February 23 at which he called on the opposition
to begin new consultations with the aim of closing ranks and coordinating its activities.
He called among other things for the creation of a coalition government; for parity representation for the opposition on the Central Election Commission; and for the passage by parliament of a law on opposition parties.
The opposition Party of Economic Development of Abkhazia, whose leader Beslan Butba also ran unsuccessfully in the December election, has likewise called for the passage of such a law, that should create a formal mechanism for allocating government funding to opposition parties.
Khajimba told the press conference that as result of the lack of dialogue
between the leadership and the opposition, the state and the people are living "in completely separate dimensions." He said the opposition should formulate short-term steps and a long-term strategy to exert "tough and objective" pressure on the authorities. The creation of a "strong and united" opposition, Khajimba continued, would "enable us to transform the attitude of the authorities and society towards the opposition."
Khajimba played a leading role last summer in coordinating a series of protest statements by opposition parties alarmed
that President Sergei Bagapsh was making too many unwarranted economic concessions to Russia.
On February 23, Khajimba lambasted the recent announcement that the Abkhaz government plans to amend the law on property to remove the current restrictions on foreign citizens acquiring real estate in Abkhazia. The opposition fears that doing so will enable wealthy Russians to buy up homes on the Black Sea coast en masse. Within hours, Bagapsh responded that no final decision has yet been made on amending the law, and that consultations will be held with the Security Council, the government, and the opposition before any such amendments are sent to parliament to be voted on.
Khajimba further urged the opposition to clarify and coordinate its position with regard to future talks with Georgia. At the same time, he stressed that Georgia should abjure the use of force, recognize Abkhaz independence, and sign a peace agreement with Abkhazia.
Khajimba, who placed second to Bagapsh in the December election with 15.4 percent of the vote, stressed that he has no plans to return to the government. He said the Forum of National Unity of which he is a member plans to convene a congress no later than March, and is already looking ahead to the parliamentary elections due one year from now.