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Page last updated at 13:03 GMT, Sunday, 13 December 2009

Sergei Bagapsh re-elected president of Abkhazia

Sergei Bagapsh
Sergei Bagapsh says more should be done to attract Russian business

Sergei Bagapsh has won a second five-year term as president of the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia, electoral officials there have announced.

Preliminary results from the first poll since Russia recognised Abkhazia as an independent state last year showed Mr Bagapsh had taken 59% of the vote.

The runner-up, Raul Khajimba, has complained of widespread fraud.

Georgia, which disputes Abkhazia's independence, has denounced the election as "illegitimate and amoral".

"Any election in Russian-occupied Abkhazia is illegitimate due to the fact that 80% of the pre-war population of Abkhazia has been driven out by two decades of ethnic cleansing," a statement said.

Since its brief war with Georgia last year over another disputed territory, South Ossetia, Russia has provided security for Abkhazia and about 60% of its budget.

'Irregularities'

On Sunday, the head of the Abkhaz election commission, Batal Tabagua, declared that Mr Bagapsh had been re-elected the region's president, having gained the 50% plus one vote required to win outright in the first-round election.

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Brief volleys of celebratory gunfire greeted the result in the capital, Sukhumi.

Mr Khajimba, a former vice-president who came a distant second with 15.4% of the vote, said he would contest the result.

"There were irregularities at every polling station," he told the AFP news agency. "I will submit a complaint to the central election commission and will also go to court."

But Russian and Venezuelan election observers said voting had been fair and transparent. No major international organisation monitored the election on Saturday.

Most of the estimated 40,000 ethnic Georgians living in Abkhazia were prevented from voting because they did not have Abkhaz passports.

The BBC's Tom Esslemont in Sukhumi says Abkhazia has changed considerably since the last presidential election five years ago.

It has been recognised as independent by Russia, Venezuela and Nicaragua and, more importantly, it is receiving far more Russian investment than it did before, our correspondent says.

During the election campaign, all five presidential candidates said more should be done to attract Russian business and to seek recognition by other states.

But critics say Russia's intentions may not be straightforward and have warned the winner of these elections not to sell out to Moscow completely.



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