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Breakaway Georgian Region Elects President

Abkhazian presidential candidate Sergei Shamba casts his ballot at a polling station in Sukhumi, Aug. 26, 2011

Residents of the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia voted for a new president Friday, three years after Russia recognized the region, and another breakaway area, South Ossetia, as independent states.

Three candidates are hoping to replace President Sergei Bagapsh, who died in May. They are acting President Alexander Ankvab, Prime Minister Sergei Shamba and Raul Khajimba of the opposition Forum of the National Unity of Abkhazia.

If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, a run-off election will be held in two weeks. Preliminary results were to be announced Saturday.

Georgian lawmakers have declared the presidential election by Abkhazia illegitimate. Much of the West and Tbilisi maintain that both Abkhazia and South Ossetia are still part of Georgia's sovereign territory.

Russia and Georgia fought a short, but brutal war over the region in 2008, and Russia still has thousands of soldiers stationed in Abkhazia.

The breakaway region has only been recognized by Venezuela, Nicaragua and the tiny Pacific island of Nauru.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.