Counting is underway in elections for the presidency of the rebel Georgian republic of Abkhazia. Only Russia, Nicaragua and Venezuela recognise the Black Sea region as an independent state, and the vote is being seen as a test as to whether it can achieve political stability despite its pariah status.
Incumbent president Sergeui Bagapsh is seeking re-election. He won popularity by winning Russia’s support in the brief war with Georgia in August last year. “An election is always a significant event,” said Bagapsh. “Especially for our country which is holding a democratic election as an independent recognised state for the first time.” But only those with Abkahz passports can vote in the election, effectively excluding some 40,000 Georgians who live in the region. The Georgian government has denounced the holding of elections on territory it still considers its own. “The president considers that in a situation where Abkhazia is occupied it is immoral to stage this kind of election charade,” said a government spokeswoman in Tbilisi. Opposition candidates have alleged irregularities in the organisation of the election. First results are expected later today.