Opposition Signals Cooperation as By-Elections Loom

Several opposition parties are showing signs of cooperation on the eve of individual MP by-elections, scheduled for this autumn in five single-mandate constituencies. These elections are seen as a run-up to the nation-wide local elections planned for next year.

Meanwhile, both the ruling National Movement and opposition parties are in the process of selection MP candidacies for these by-elections. The opposition Conservative, New Rights and Republican parties are holding consultations to nominate common candidacies so as to not compete with each other.

“The consultations between the opposition parties are rather successful. In any case, there are many competitive candidates in the opposition. We will show the authorities during these elections that they no longer enjoy huge public support,” influential civil society activist Davit Usupashvili, who is currently affiliated with Republican Party, told Civil Georgia on June 17.

Usupashvili is slated to become the chairman of the Republican Party after the party holds its congress later in June.

Conservative Party leader MP Koba Davitashvili proposed to hold primaries within these opposition parties and nominate each of the constituencies’ candidates. The Republican Party said ‘yes,’ while the New Rights objected to this proposal by the Conservative Party.

Neither the ruling National Movement nor the opposition parties have spoken yet about possible MP nominations. However, there has been some speculations already regarding this issue in the Georgian media.

These speculations mainly involve Deputy Interior Minister Bidzina Bregadze, Head of the Chamber of Commerce Jemal Inaishvili and President’s Parliamentary Secretary Pavle Kublashvili. All these persons can be nominated by the ruling party, according to some media reports. However, none of these people have confirmed the reports so far.
The Georgian daily Rezonansi (Resonance) reported on June 16 that State Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration Issues Giorgi Baramidze also wants to run for the MP position in the by-elections which will be held in Tbilisi’s single-mandate constituency of Isani. The paper speculates that this decision by State Minister Baramidze was triggered by “tense relations” between him and President Saakashvili.

The Georgian media has also speculated recently that Davit Usupashvili and Tina Khidasheli might also run for the MP spot from the Republican Party. But Davit Usupashvili told Civil Georgia that his “nomination is less likely.”

Tina Khidasheli, an influential civil society leader, was the long-time chairman of the advocacy NGO Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association and is now the chairman of the executive board of the Open Society– Georgia Foundation. She is affiliated with the Republican Party and is the wife of Davit Usupashvili.

The Republicans hope to win all the races, especially in Adjara where their positions are relatively stronger than in other parts of Georgia.

The opposition parties are also actively cooperating over issue related to the direct elections of regional governors and city Mayors. Currently, the Mayors of the capital city Tbilisi and the Western town of Poti are appointed by the President, as are all regional Governors. Recently, the authorities proposed a draft law that envisages the election of the Mayors by elected City Councils (Sakrebulo). The opposition, however, insists on direct elections.
Representatives of the Republicans and Conservative parties, as well as from the opposition public movement ‘Forum for Welfare and Democracy’ jointly submitted a request to the CEC on June 16 to launch a collection of Georgian voters’ signatures to hold a referendum on whether or not to hold direct elections of regional governors and city Mayors.

Leaders of the opposition parties say that this appeal over this request to hold a referendum, as well as upcoming individual MP by-elections will be a test for the newly set up election commission, as well as for the authorities, who may prove their readiness to conduct genuinely free and fair elections.


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