Voters in the breakaway Black Sea region of Abkhazia are choosing a president in a ballot that is only being recognised by three countries.
Neighbouring Georgia – from which Abkhazia broke away in the early ’90s – has called the election a “comedy” led by Russia. There are thousands of Russian troops in Abkhazia, and the region is heavily dependent on Moscow for financial aid. The incumbent, Sergei Bagapsh, is running for a second term since winning a disputed ballot in 2004. Some experts are expecting a run-off vote between Bagapsh and his nearest rival. The sitting president has drawn support from the fact that he was in charge when Russia recognised Abkhazia’s independence. Three thousand six hundred Russian soldiers are stationed in Abkhazia, with more in the other breakaway region South Ossetia. Opposition candidates in the Abkhazian presidential election have accused Bagapsh of handing too much influence over to Russia. Tbilisi firmly believes the two regions to be part of Georgian territory and the West wants the two to re-integrate. That is something the candidates say will never happen.