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Analysis, book reviews and photography from Abkhazia and the wider Caucasus — updates when time permits

A noteworthy session of Parliament

Last Wednesday’s session of the People’s Assembly of Abkhazia (ApsnyPress, Vitali Sharia/Ekho Kavkaza) featured three interesting details.

First, the session was held in Abkhaz, with interpretation provided for those present with only a command of Russian, even though Deputies switched back to Russian during some of the more critical items. The government has for years now committed itself to strengthening the Abkhaz language by mandating its use in the public sphere. But until now, not much has changed in practice, even though the language law adopted in November 2007 already ordered Parliament to conduct business in Abkhaz by 1 January 2010 — in the meantime newspapers were left struggling to implement the new regulations.

Second, a law was passed decreeing that public meetings and demonstrations are to be registered at least five working days in advance. What makes the law noteworthy is that it makes an exception for the traditional assembly grounds of Lykhnashta (in Lykhny) and Mykuashta (in Mokva). Especially the former is hugely symbolic, being the site of many historical meetings, most famously in 1989 when close to a third of all Abkhaz assembled to call for the restoration of Abkhazia’s pre-1931 union republic status.

And third, the Deputies voted against a series of regulations establishing an ‘ethical’ committee that would have had the authority to censor and even remove MPs in case of misbehaviour. While the proposal was framed as aiming to uphold the high moral standards embodied in apsuara, it was perceived by opponents as patronising and as a potential instrument to quell dissent.

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