Three candidates are competing this week for a presidential post in the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia. The Central Election Commission predicts 70% turnout on the ballot that will be held on August 26, 2011. According to BBC:
At least 130,000 people were registered to vote but, our correspondent says, an estimated 40,000 ethnic Georgians living in the region were mostly prevented from voting because they do not have Abkhaz passports.
The three candidates are: acting President Aleksandr Ankvab, who was Bagapsh’s vice president, Prime Minister Sergei Shamba, and former Vice President and opposition leader Raul Khadzhimba. All of them have their own vision of Abkhazia’s future, however the difference is not big. A month before the election candidates signed a formal pledge to ensure the ballot is free and fair, however according to RFE/RL the campaign turned ugly.
The oldest candidate, Sergei Shamba, born in 1951, turned to social media in order to attract online community. Shamba sent out his first tweet on August 2 (in Russian) saying: “My goal – Abkhazia to be one of the economic leaders in the Black Sea Basin.”
Shamba follows only one person – Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s ambassador to NATO, and has 29 followers. He tweeted 44 times since August 2, and all of the tweets are not in Abkhazian, but Russian (In mid-July, all three candidates passed an exam in Abkhaz language).
The question arises: Who is Shamba targeting with his social media presence? Figures indicate that there are not many followers (29 on Twitter and 60 on Facebook). Exact number of internet penetration in Abkhazia is unknown but it is very low. There are very few internet cafes in urban areas and only one in Sukhumi that provides Wi-Fi access.
With two days left till the election, heat rises in the de facto republic that is recognized independent by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Nauru and Vanuatu. Let’s wait for the results and see what is going to happen in the aftermath.