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Abkhazia’s opposition bloc calls on its supporters to stay away from Sunday referendum

July 09, 23:52 UTC+3 SUKHUM
The referendum holds only one question: "Do you think it necessary to hold an early election of Abkhazia’s president?"
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SUKHUM, July 9. /TASS/. Abkhazia’s bloc of opposition forces has called on its supporters not to cast their votes at the referendum on early presidential elections scheduled for July 10, opposition activists said on the national television on Saturday.

"The authorities have not created conditions for free will of the country’s citizens. The referendum cannot be appropriately held under these circumstances. We think it necessary to postpone the referendum to a later date in the autumn so that all required conditions will be made possible for the people to express their free will," said Aslan Bzhania, a bloc leader. He called not go to the polls "under the current circumstances."

"In case the president disagrees with the opposition’s demand to postpone the referendum until the autumn, the opposition reserves the right to convene a nationwide rally," he said.

In the meantime, Garik Samanba, a representative of the Amtsakhara party, apologized before the opposition activists who had carried out enormous work collecting signatures for the referendum.

Earlier, TASS reported that an initiative group collected 20,000 signatures instead of required 10,000 between March 17 and April 20, 2016.

"Tomorrow’s referendum has failed. Those who are eager may take part in it, but we are appealing to our supporters not to participate," Samanba said, expressing hope that "opposition’s demands set forth on July 5 would be fulfilled" owing to the talks and with the help of people’s diplomacy. The demands include a new date for the referendum and resignation of Interior Minister Leonid Dzapshba, who has been suspended from performing his duty until the end of a prosecution probe.

The referendum holds only one question: "Do you think it necessary to hold an early election of Abkhazia’s president?"

Earlier, Abkhazia’s opposition Amtsakhara party (of war veterans) accused the Abkhazian authorities of inciting tensions in the republic following the unrest in the capital city Sukhum on July 5. The party adopted a resolution at its congress on Tuesday demanding the resignation of the republic’s interior minister over the worsening criminal situation in Abkhazia and actions aimed at violation of citizens’ constitutional rights to participate in a referendum. The opposition appealed to the republic’s president to put off early presidential elections from July 10 to autumn. Later on, up to 1,000 people rallied outside the Abkhazian Interior Ministry building for almost six hours.

Abkhazian President Raul Khadzhimba relieved Interior Minister Leonid Dzapshbu of his duties but refused to postpone the referendum on early presidential elections to a later date.

He said that the current events in Abkhazia were an attempt to destabilize the situation in the country and that the interior minister was just a pretext. Khadzhimba said he would meet the opposition’s demand to allow people with expired passports to vote in the referendum.

The Amtsakhara party said that the statements and actions of Abkhazian President Raul Khadzhimba and his entourage after the July 5 riots were provoking a new wave of mass public protests. It warned that the events could start unfolding to an extremely dangerous scenario as a consequence.

On July 6, the Abkhazian president told journalists that he had met almost all the demands made by the opposition except for changing the date of the referendum on snap presidential elections in Abkhazia.

"The referendum will not be postponed and will take place on July 10," Khadzhimba said.

Khadzhimba told his supporters at a rally a day earlier, on Wednesday, that he would accept any referendum result even if it was negative for him.

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