A civic union of Abkhaz "patriotic forces" held its founding congress in Sukhumi on January 19. The new union, which has named itself Apsadgyyl (Homeland) is not intended as an electoral bloc for the parliamentary ballot scheduled for March 10. Instead, it will seek in the longer term to bridge what lawyer Tamaz Ketsba, a member of the initiative group behind the forum, calls the existing split
in Abkhaz society.
The new union brings together an unspecified number of opposition parties and NGOs, including the radical Forum of National Unity of Abkhazia (FNEA) headed by Raul Khajimba, who ran unsuccessfully in the presidential elections of 2004, 2009, and 2011.
Addressing the founding congress, Khajimba argued that Abkhazia's sovereignty is under threat because of the inertia of its leaders, presumably meaning Aleksandr Ankvab, who was elected de facto president in August 2011 following the untimely death
in May of Sergei Bagapsh. Only a few countries recognize Abkhazia as an independent entity, including Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and a handful of Pacific island states.
At the same time, Khajimba called for "constructive dialogue" between the opposition and the authorities.
The Apsadgyyl congress addressed two formal demands
to the authorities in the run-up to the March ballot.
The first was for the outgoing parliament to debate proposed amendments to the election law that would minimize the scope for falsifying election results.
One such measure is to revamp the composition of election commissions at all levels. The parliament is reportedly reluctant to debate those amendments.
The second proposal
was to guarantee all parties airtime on state TV and radio even before the election campaign gets underway.
Last fall, Khajimba addressed an open letter to Ankvab complaining that the management of Abkhaz state TV and radio routinely ignores all the opposition's demands for more extensive and in-depth coverage of pressing political, socio-economic, legal, and demographic matters as well as other issues, such as corruption.
Khajimba called for the creation of an independent public council
that would advise the management of state TV on programming priorities as well as on promoting feedback from viewers and listeners while also acting on such audience input.
Ankvab rejected that demand. But he did agree to set up a "working group,"
which is to formulate its reform proposals by March 1, i.e. too late for them to be implemented during the run-up to the March parliamentary elections.