Celebrating reality

Aleksandr Ankvab (RIA Novosti / Vladimir Popov)
А new president has been inaugurated in Abkhazia. Aleksandr Ankvab pledged to do his best “for the sake of prosperity, peace and calm” in the republic.

­It was like a birthday bash that was played down for fear that few friends would show up. Citing the sudden death of Abkhazia's former president four months ago, Sergey Bagapsh’s successor opted for a low-key ceremony.

Aleksandr Ankvab took an oath of office before a meager congregation of Supreme Court judges and local members of parliament – an event unduly modest by the standards of this proud people known for their unabashed hospitality and propensity for showy gatherings.

Apart from the speaker of the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, there were few foreign dignitaries in attendance. This was hardly a surprise, considering that Russia is the only major power that recognized the results of the August elections. Both the EU and the US questioned “the legal and constitutional framework” of the vote. Why? Because, according to European and American diplomats, they view Abkhazia as part of Georgia.

This seems pretty logical. Despite the fact that Abkhazia cut all political, administrative and economic ties with Georgia two decades ago, their independence, although a fact of reality, does not exist in the world of Western policymakers.

But does it necessarily mean that the people of Abkhazia, so far denied their statehood by a significant part of the international community, should also be denied a right to vote?

By the standards of the South Caucasus, the elections in Abkhazia were some of the freest and fairest since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The race's final mile featured three candidates, all of whom openly courted voters and were given an equal amount of airtime. A candidate that was rumored to be a Moscow favorite only got 20 per cent of the vote. The one who did win could rival President Obama in the intensity of negative campaigning he had been subjected to.

By all accounts, the Abkhazian presidential elections proved more open, vibrant and competitive than the last presidential elections in Georgia, which is still held by the West as a model democracy that Abkhazia is supposed to join.

Once again, the baby got thrown out with the bath water. By brushing off the results of the Abkhazian vote, Western powers also pooh-pooh the country's modest yet genuine strides toward democratic values. The values that are becoming part of life rather than being plat de jour of the State Department's pronouncements.

According to psychologists, one of the reasons many of us feel vulnerable on our birthdays is a fear of social neglect. We often see the amount of attention we get on our big days as a gauge of our standing in the eyes of friends and colleagues. A lavish birthday party is, therefore, best for our self-esteem. But when it is not feasible, a small family gathering may do it just as well.

Sukhum, Abkazia

Oksana Boyko, RT