16:06 GMT +3 hours27 November 2014
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Abkhazia goes to polls to elect new president

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Georgia's breakaway republic of Abkhazia is voting on Friday to elect a new president, following the death of President Sergei Bagapsh in May.

Georgia's breakaway republic of Abkhazia is voting on Friday to elect a new president, following the death of President Sergei Bagapsh in May.

Over 140,000 voters will choose between three candidates - acting president Alexander Ankvab, Prime Minister Sergei Shamba and opposition leader Raul Khajimba. Ankvab and Shamba are seen as favorites.

The preliminary results of the Friday vote could be announces as early as on August 28. The second round, if necessary, will be held in two weeks.

Some 120 observers from 27 countries have been monitoring the elections, Abkhaz Foreign Minister Maxim Gvindzhiya said on Friday.

“We were expecting more people [to observe the polls], because parliament sent invitations to parliaments of all Commonwealth of Independent States’ members countries and almost to all leading international organizations,” Gvindzhiya said.

He said he was sure that the elections would be “fair, transparent and without falsifications.”

Russia recognized Abkhazia and another former Georgian republic, South Ossetia, in 2008, after a five-day war with Georgia over the latter which began when Georgia attacked the republic in an attempt to bring it back under central control.

Later, the two states' independence was recognized by Nicaragua, Venezuela and the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru. Another Pacific island nation, Vanuatu, recognized Abkhazia's independence in May.

Georgia, which still considers the two regions part of its sovereign territory, has repeatedly stated that any elections in Abkhazia or South Ossetia would be illegitimate and would never be recognized by the international community.   

Bagapsh, 62, who had led Abkhazia since 2005, died of cancer in Moscow following an operation on his right lung.