Georgia. According to CountryAAH, the total population in Georgia is 3,989,178 people in 2020. The re-election to the presidential post in January was won as expected by Micheil Saakashvili, who received more than 96% of the vote. The election followed the bloody revolution in late 2003, when former President Eduard Shevardnadze was forced to resign and the opposition, led by Saakashvili, took power. Only a few weeks after his presidency, Saakashvili ended up in conflict with the new opposition. Prosecutors carried out a raid on a private television station that made critical reports about the revolution that set off Shevardnadze. According to prosecutors, the TV station found equipment related to smuggling, but the opposition saw the raid as an attempt to squander independent and critical media.
Georgia’s regional divide became the most difficult challenge for President Saakashvili, who in his election campaign promised to unite the country. In addition to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which declared themselves independent, Adzjaria was in practice beyond the control of the central government. In March, Georgia imposed a blockade on Adzjaria and Parliament demanded the resignation of dictatorial Adzarian leader Aslan Abashidze. Instead, he let police down protest demonstrations and made sure to blast bridges at the region’s border when the Georgian military conducted an exercise nearby. Saakashvili then introduced temporary presidential rule in Adzharia, and Abashidze found in May too good to give up and seek political asylum in Moscow. As a result, Georgia gained access to Azerbaijan’s good revenues from oil transports on the Black Sea.
Saakashvili’s attempt to bring the breakaway republic of South Ossetia under Georgian control encountered even worse problems. Tensions rose during the summer and in August Georgian military posts were attacked by armed groups loyal to South Ossetia. Over 20 casualties were required in the fighting. Georgia’s military withdrew, but the crisis strained the country’s relations with Russia that supported South Ossetia’s outbreak. In November, however, the Georgian government managed to establish talks with the South Ossetian president.
In the outbreak republic of Abkhazia, presidential elections were held in October, but confusion prevailed over the result and the two leading candidates ended up in a drawn-out conflict over who actually won. Finally, an agreement was made to re-elect in January 2005.
Politics and economics
According to the constitution adopted in 1999, Abkhazia is presidential. Raul Chadzhimba was president between 2014 and early 2020 when he was forced out of office.
The president is elected in general elections for five years at a time. The Head of Government and Ministers are appointed by, and are responsible to, the President.
The Parliament consists of 35 members who are also elected by majority vote in one-man constituencies every five years.
After the last election in 2017, only two parties are represented – President Chadzhimbas Apkhazetis Erovnuli Ertianobis Phorumi (Forum of National Unity of Abkhazia, FNUA) – which has 3 seats and the Ainar party which has 1 seat. The other 31 members are party-independent, but the majority of them are considered to be supporters of the president.
The latest elections have been conducted without any more serious comments. Civil society is lively and the opposition is allowed to work. The government respects freedom of assembly and demonstrations against the government are held at regular intervals.
The traditional media is controlled by the government, but the internet and social media have emerged as vibrant platforms for political discussions.
Corruption is considered widespread and is not being blamed by the government according to the human rights organization Freedom House. The judicial system is one of the bodies that is adversely affected by corruption and nepotism. Discrimination against Georgians occurs.
The approach to Russia continued under Chadzhimba’s leadership. An agreement on “strategic partnership” with Russia, which Chadzhimba signed in November 2014, was interpreted by the outside world and the domestic opposition as a step towards a Russian annexation of Abkhazia. The agreement meant that the Abkhaz defense would be merged with the Russian and that the economy of the state of the outbreak was increasingly made dependent on Russia.
A more detailed agreement on military cooperation was concluded two years later, when it was said, among other things, that the Russian Ministry of Defense should command the joint forces in the event of war.
Domestic politics was turbulent with constant changes to the post of head of government.
In addition, Chadzhimba maintained contacts with Venezuela, Nicaragua and Syria, which, apart from Russia and the small island nation of Nauru in the South Sea, are the only states that recognize Abkhazia.
In the 2019 presidential election, Chadzhimba barely won over Alcha’s Kvitsinia. The margin was less than one percent. The opposition claimed electoral fraud and demanded the resignation of Chadzhimba. In early 2020, Abkhazia’s supreme court suspended the results of the presidential election and Chadzhimba was forced to resign. Elections were announced until March 22.
Contributions from Russia provide the basis for Abkhazia’s economy. About half the state budget is based on Russian aid. Agriculture is the most important industry. Above all, citrus fruits, tobacco and tea are grown. Abkhazia also has certain natural resources in the form of hydropower and coal.
Tourism is also an important source of income. The vast majority of visitors are Russians, who can enter the country without a visa. For citizens in, for example, EU countries, a visit to Abkhazia is quite complicated.
Abkhazia has a large deficit in its foreign trade. Imports are worth more than three times as much as exports, but the deficit is said to slowly decrease. About two-thirds of the trade is with Russia and almost one-fifth with Turkey.
Formally, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) still maintains the economic sanctions introduced in 1996, but Russia violates the trade ban since 2008.
Many support themselves through smuggling. Across the border between Abkhaz and Georgian territory, intensive smuggling is carried out with mandarins and hazelnuts grown in Abkhazia, as well as cigarettes and gasoline. Both Abkhaz and Georgian leagues earn big money on the smuggling and thus have a common interest in keeping the conflict alive. The Abkhaz authorities have no power over the leagues and the Georgian state is reluctant to establish formal controls as this could be perceived as in practice a recognition of the border.