Aleksandr Ankvab issued a statement today announcing his decision to step down as de facto president of Georgia’s breakaway Republic of Abkhazia, just five days after opposition supporters forced their way into the presidential administration building calling for his resignation.
Ankvab explained his decision to do so in terms of the overriding necessity to avoid precipitating a confrontation that could endanger the region’s hard-won statehood. As he has done consistently since the crisis began, he stressed that the opposition is acting in violation of the constitution. He nonetheless appealed to his supporters not to take any violent action, and not to go ahead with the planned pan-national gathering the political party Amtsakhara, which supports him, has planned for June 2.
Without naming names, Ankvab accused the opposition of having no interest in trying to reach a negotiated agreement with him. He said that while their primary interest is in seizing power and sharing out ministerial posts, “this is only the tip of the iceberg.” He accused them of lacking any interest in implementing reforms. Constitutional amendments that would transfer some of the presidential powers to the parliament and prime minister figured in a list of demands the 11 opposition parties aligned in the Coordinating Council
put to Ankvab in late April.
Ankvab added that he is convinced the opposition receives support from those forces, which he declined to name, that were behind the attempts in recent years on his life, and that one of the objectives of the coup mounted against him was to secure the release from prison of the men currently on trial for those repeated assassination attempts.
It is not clear whether Ankvab met as planned on June 1 with former parliament speaker Valery Bganba, whom lawmakers had designated acting president the previous day. Likewise unclear is whether Ankvab is still at the Russian military base in Gudauta where he took refuge after fleeing Sukhumi during the night of May 27-28.
Even though Ankvab cited as the motive for his resignation the need to preserve calm and stability, he may have been left with no other course of action after both Moscow and the region’s power agencies withdrew their support. Aleksei Chesnakov, an advisor to Russian presidential aide Vladislav Surkov who flew to Sukhumi on May 28 to mediate between the two sides, pointedly declined to refer to Ankvab as president in a statement earlier on June 1, referring to him as “Mr.”
Unofficial reports say the “power ministers” met with Bganba after the parliament named him acting president and pledged their support.
-- Liz Fuller