Abkhaz lawmakers were apparently forced to make an enigmatic retreat over the law passed a day earlier that would allow ethnic Georgians in Gali district to “re-establish” Abkhaz ethnicity and citizenship.

Following pressure from stubborn war veterans in the opposition On the half way Group, Abkhaz lawmakers reportedly convened an unpublished extraordinary session on March 22 to repeal the law. On the half way had scheduled a protest rally for the next day.

Temur Nadaraia On the half way Member and former head of the Abkhazian-controlled district of Gali, was quoted as saying yesterday that some lawmakers were unaware that residents of Gali would be “automatically” granted citizenship if they chose to claim Abkhazian ethnicity.

Nadaraia claimed lawmakers apologized, withdrew and rejected the already passed law for a repeated third hearing. He claimed to have been present at the meeting.

Sokhumi based Apsnypress The agency also quoted Nadaraia as saying that veterans are also preparing an appeal to the “parliament” and Abkhazian leader Aslan Bzhania “to impose a moratorium on mass passage in the Gali district until the end of the integration process”.

Enigmatic Retreat

But the legislative mechanisms to rescind the short-lived amendments to the Civil Code and Civil Registry Act in the occupied region at the March 22 extraordinary session remain a mystery.

Sokhumi-based Nuzhnaya Gazeta, an opposition media outlet, published parliamentary decisions repealing the amendments on March 22, signed by Deputy Speaker Mikhail Sangulia.

The document cites Rule 103 of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure as the legal basis for reversing the changes. But the cited article governs bills that passed the second hearing, while the amendments in question cleared the third, final reading.

Nor was it immediately clear how many MPs, if any, voted to withdraw the legislative amendments.

The Gali Question

The Gali district is home to about 30,000 ethnic Georgians who returned to Abkhazia in the late 1990s after a few years of being uprooted after the 1992-1993 war.

In 2014 and 2017, the previous Kremlin-backed government of Raul Khajimba stripped them of their Abkhaz “citizenship” and political rights.

In recent years, Abkhaz hardliners have been vocal against issuing passports to residents of Gali. On the half way Group in 2020 sharply criticized the administration of Aslan Bzhania for comments in favor of passportization.

They reminded the current “Prime Minister” Alexander Ankvab that issuing Abkhazian passports to Georgians led to his ousting from the presidency back in 2014.

The hardliners, like On the half way War veterans fear that issuing Abkhazian passports to some 30,000 ethnic Georgians in the region of less than a quarter million people would undermine Abkhazian ethnocracy.

To date, around 260,000 Georgians from other regions of Abkhazia have been expelled from their homes.

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