Four Parties to Compete in First Ever Primaries

On August 5, four opposition parties signed a memorandum on cooperation according to which they will hold joint primaries to nominate single candidates for the five majoritiarian [single mandate constituency] seats in Parliament up for grabs in the October 1 by-elections. The primaries will be the first of their kind in Georgia.

The leaders of the New Rights, Conservative, Labor and Freedom parties, who signed the agreement in Tbilisi, described the move as “unprecedented” and vowed to hold free and fair primaries, which will become an example of “civilized cooperation” between political parties.

“This is a very important moment, as this is the first instance of political parties holding primaries in Georgia. This should be an example of cooperation for the authorities,” said Conservative Party leader MP Koba Davitashvili at the ceremony dedicated to the signing of the memorandum. The Conservative Party initiated the idea of holding primaries.

“At first, this initiative sounded very vague and there were doubts as to whether we could agree on terms. But now I am satisfied that we managed to agree and cooperate. This does not mean a merger of these political parties, it is just a civilized form of cooperation,” New Rights leader MP Davit Gamkrelidze said.

The primaries will be held only in those five single-mandate constituencies where by-elections are scheduled: the Adjarian towns of Kobuleti, Batumi and Shuakhevi; the western Georgian town of Tkibuli and Tbilisi’s Isani district. All voters officially registered in these constituencies will be able to participate in the primaries.

An 8-member election commission set up by these four opposition parties will manage the primaries. Each party will nominate two of its activists as the members of the election commission. Later the parties will set up lower level – district and precinct election commissions as well.

“The election commission will have no chairman and will be fair, unlike the current Central Election Commission,” MP Koba Davitashvili of Conservative Party told Civil Georgia.

Two parties – the New Rights and Conservatives, have already nominated candidates for the primaries. The Freedom Party has not yet chosen its nominees. Meanwhile, the participation of the Labor Party in the primaries will be more of symbolic importance, as the party does not plan to nominate its own candidates.

“We are not participating in these by-elections. With our participation in this cooperative effort we are supporting free and democratic elections,” saidShalva Natelashvili, leader of the Labor Party.

Republicans Out of the Race

At a news conference leader of the Republicans Davit Usupashvili explained that last year the Republican Party underwent registration in the CEC – a routine legal procedure necessary to participate in elections. The new CEC, which was set up in June, recently decided that the Republican Party’s registration by the previous CEC was invalid and canceled it.

“After that, we re-submitted our registration request, but the CEC rejected it, citing that it contained formal legal mistakes,” said Usupashvili, who himself is a legal expert.

“It is clear that the authorities are trying to bar the Republican Party from the elections… But we will continue fight – we are starting preparations for the local self-governance elections [scheduled for autumn, 2006]. These elections are the Republican Party’s major political target at the moment. Tina Khidasheli will chair the election headquarters,” Davit Usupashvili said.

But Chairman of the Central Election Commission Gia Kavtaradze dismissed allegations as “groundless.” At a news conference he explained that according to the law, a political party willing to undergo registration and participate in the elections has to submit a number of documents, including “the name of the party’s representative in the CEC and indicate the exact authority assigned to said representative.”

“In the registration form submitted to the CEC on August 2 the Republican Party named Zurab Marakvelidze as its representative to the CEC, but did not indicate his authorities. After that, we informed the Republican Party to make its representative’s authority clear and now the party has two more days to re-register,” Chairman Kavtaradze said.

He also said that a similar case occurred with another opposition party, the Conservatives. “But after we informed them to specify their representative’s authority, they did so without making any noise,” Gia Kavtaradze said.

But the recent decision of the Adjarian Autonomous Republic’s Supreme Council (local Parliament) to bar its members from running in the MP by-election gave another reason to Republican Party to accuse the authorities of undertaking measures directed against this opposition party.

The Republican Party pinned its hopes in the by-elections mainly in Adjara Autonomous Republic, where the party enjoys relatively higher popularity as compared with other parts of Georgia. Republican activist Giorgi Masalkin, who is the member of the Adjarian Parliament, planned to run for the MP seat in Batumi’s single-mandate constituency.

“This initiative from the ruling [National Movement] party is directed particularly against Giorgi Masalkin [a Republican Party activist] who is a member of the Adjarian Parliament,” Davit Usupashvili said.


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