Reports: Opposition Leader Wins Abkhazia’s Repeat Presidential Election

March 22, 2020 08:48 GMT UPDATED March 23, 2020 03:15 GMT

Opposition leader Aslan Bzhania was voted in as the new leader of the Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia, preliminary election results show, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

He won with 56.5 percent of the vote with all the ballots having been counted as of early March 23, the news agency reported, citing an unnamed Central Election Commission official.

Voter turnout exceeded 71 percent, surpassing the 50 percent threshold, the report said.

Economy Minister Adgur Ardzinba garnered 35.42 percent of the votes, former Interior Minister Leonid Dzapshba won 2.22 percent, whereas 1.75 percent of voters were against all candidates.

The presidential inauguration is supposed to take place 30 days after the official vote count is announced, which is expected later on March 23.

The March 22 rerun vote is the latest effort to sort out the Black Sea region’s government, which has been in flux since a January Supreme Court ruling annulled the election victory of Raul Khajimba three months earlier.

The ruling came amid violent protests and ultimately Khajimba stepped down.

The run-up to the vote was marked by intrigue when Bzhania suffered two mysterious illnesses, which some of his supporters alleged were caused by poisoning.

It had been uncertain if the actual vote would take place at all due to fears of coronavirus infection. As of March 20, the region had not publicly reported any infections from COVID-19.

Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia in 1992, which led to all-out war with Tbilisi.

After Russia and Georgia fought a brief war in August 2008, Moscow recognized Abkhazia as an independent nation. But just a small handful of other countries have followed Russia’s lead.

Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticized the elections, saying they “fully contradict the fundamental norms and principles of international law” and violate the nation’s sovereignty.

© RFE/RL 2020

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