Abkhazia Holds Election This Week

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SUKHUMI, Georgia, Aug. 23 (UPI) — Three candidates are competing this week in an election to replace the late President Sergei Bagapsh in the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia.

The Central Elections Commission Friday predicted a turnout of more than 70 percent, Voice of Russia predicted.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which refused to join Georgia after the breakup of the Soviet Union, are recognized only by Russia and a handful of other states. Abkhazia is a small state with a population estimated at less than 200,000 and an area smaller than that of Connecticut.

The three candidates to replace Bagapsh are Prime Minister Sergei Shamba, Acting President Alexander Ankvab, who was Bagapsh’s vice president, and former Vice President and opposition leader Raul Khadzhimba.

Ankvab was accused last week of collaborating with Georgian forces in the early 1990s, a charge he denied. In an article in a Moscow newspaper and on a video, a former Georgian defense minister said Eduard Shevardnadze, the former Soviet foreign minister who became head of the independent Georgian state, tapped Ankvab to supply information about Abkhaz troop movements.

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