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Abkhazia Re-elects President


It is Abkhazia's first election since Russia recognized the breakaway Black Sea territory last year after a brief war with Georgia.

Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region has re-elected its president for a second term.

Sunday's preliminary election results show the rebel region of Abkhazia elected leader Sergei Bagapsh for a second term. It is Abkhazia's first election since Russia recognized the breakaway Black Sea territory last year after a brief war with Georgia.

Russia hailed the elections as a success, although the United States and the West do not recognize the region as independent. Nicaragua and Venezuela are the only other countries that recognize Abkhazia.

Preliminary results show that Bagapsh garnered nearly 60 percent of the vote, nearly four times that of runner up former KGB agent and former vice president, Raul Khadzimba, who secured nearly 16 percent, according to the central election commission. The election featured five candidates.

Local resident, Konstantin, who refused to give his last name, says he is glad Bagapsh won another term.

He says the president won another victory and that he deserves it. He says despite the opposition's various actions to discredit Mr. Bagapsh, residents voted wisely. He says he hopes things will go well for Abkhazia, so it can stand firmly on its own feet.

Russian election officials claim voting was fair and transparent. Opposition candidate Khadzimba, complained of widespread voting irregularities and threatened to challenge the results.

Voting was limited to Abkhaz passport holders, which excluded 40,000 ethnic Georgians.

Even so, local resident Ruslan, who also refused to give his last name, says he thinks the elections were fair.

Ruslan says that he thinks the elections were held on an equal level. He says the main sign of a fair election, for him, was that people wanted to vote, he says that is a unique occurrence. He says that in Europe, and in Russia it is very difficult to make people go out and vote. He says this is vital for the region.

Georgia condemned the elections as illegal.

Many analysts say the voting was seen as a test of stability for Abkhazia, which also fought a year-long war with Georgia in the early 1990s.

Thousands of Russian troops remain in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, another breakaway region of Georgia that Russia has recognized since its war with Georgia last year.

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