Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 176

The Autonomous Republic of Ajaria, a constituent territory of Georgia, held elections to its Supreme Soviet yesterday. Some 20 parties and organizations, most of them combined into several blocs, competed for the 80 seats. The incumbent Ajar Supreme Soviet chairman Aslan Abashidze’s All-Georgia Union for Georgia’s Rebirth, together with Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze’s Union of Georgia’s Citizens, formed a bloc that is expected to win a comfortable majority of seats. Most opposition parties from Tbilisi, including the "Round Table-Free Georgia" (supporters of the late president Zviad Gamsakhurdia), also competed, but few were expected to overcome the 5 percent threshold. The election was held in the absence of international monitoring, under a perestroika-era electoral law still valid in Ajaria that provides for monitoring by party delegates only. The OSCE has protested this omission. (Interfax, Iprinda, September 18 through 22)

The controversy over international monitoring has almost obscured the fact that strategically situated Ajaria has been a unique oasis of stability during the recent years of turmoil in Georgia. In sharp contrast to developments in Abkhazia or South Ossetia, Abashidze has firmly controlled his republic and remained loyal to Tbilisi. He has also maintained good relations with the Russian military, who have facilities in Ajaria, and has — jointly with Tbilisi — cultivated economic cooperation with Turkey. Situated in southwestern Georgia on the Turkish border and on the Black Sea, and possessing a major economic asset in the port of Batumi, Ajaria expects to take advantage of the revenue, foreign investment, and trade to be generated in the near future by the transit of Caspian oil across Georgia.

Islamic Development Bank Becoming Involved in the Region.