SUKHUM, May 20. /TASS/. Abkhazia’s opposition has called an open-ended protest campaign after the country’s parliament refused to postpone presidential elections from July 21 to autumn, Teimuraz Khishba, the leader of the national movement for the protection of Abkhazia’s statehood, said on Monday.
A protest rally began on Monday morning near the parliament’s building in the center of Sukhum. The protesters are demanding that the elections be postponed due to the illness of the main candidate for Abkhazian president from the opposition bloc, Aslan Bzhaniya, who was hospitalized in Moscow after his health condition had deteriorated sharply. Th opposition and Bzhaniya’s family claim he might have been poisoned. The parliament however refused to postpone the elections.
"We asked to postpone the polls to the autumn. Our request was ignored. We declare an open-ended strike until the president appears before people. We call on all our fellow countrymen to join us," Khishba said.
According to a TASS correspondent, a special rapid reaction force has left the scene, with law and order being maintained by the police. The city’s prosecutor’s office say there are about 700 people on the square in front of the parliament building. Several insignificant clashes were reported among those gathered after the parliament passed its decision. The participants in the rally also responded negatively to the arrival of riot police at the scene.
Abkhaz Interior Minister Garry Arshba earlier told TASS that as of the morning of May 20, over 500 police were involved in the efforts to ensure law and order in the center of Sukhum.