Voters in Abkhazia are going to the polls to choose a new leader for the breakaway Georgian region, as election organizers push forward despite anxiety over coronavirus.
The March 22 rerun vote is the latest effort to sort out the Black Sea region’s government, which has been in flux since a January Supreme Court ruling annulled the election victory of Raul Khajimba three months earlier.
That ruling sparked violent protests and ultimately led to Khajimba stepping down.
Three candidates were in the running: Vice President Adgur Ardzinba, opposition lawmaker Aslan Bzhania, and former Interior Minister Leonid Dzapshba.
The run-up to the vote was marked by intrigue when Bzhania suffered two mysterious illnesses, which some of his supporters alleged were caused by poisoning.
It was uncertain if the actual vote would take place at all due to fears of coronavirus infection. As of March 20, the region had not publicly reported any infections.
Election organizers said polling precincts were being equipped with medical masks and hand sanitizers.
Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia in 1992, which led to all-out war with Tbilisi.
After Russia and Georgia fought a brief war in August 2008, Moscow recognized Abkhazia as an independent state. But just a small handful of other countries have followed Russia’s lead.