New head for young state – Abkhazia votes

Abkhazian polling stations open their doors for voters on Friday in the fifth presidential election in Abkhazia’s history, and the second since it was recognized as an independent state in 2008. The election commission predicts a high voter turnout.

The election comes on a historic day for the Abkhaz people – three years ago on August 26, Dmitry Medvedev, the President of Russia, recognized this young republic as an independent state.

There are three candidates running for the post. But the former President Sergey Bagapsh’s sudden death from heart failure has left a sort of political vacuum in Abkhazia. There appears to be no certain front runner in the ballot.

Among those three are two top Abkhazian officials – acting President Aleksandr Ankvab and Prime Minister Sergey Shamba. The third is Raul Khajimba, a former vice president. The latter is the most critical of what he calls the country’s overdependence on Russia.

Many international observers have come to monitor the polling from the around the region and from the EU.

The winner of the election will face tough challenges economically and politically, and will have to build up the newly-recognized tiny state.

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