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Candidates’ Spouses Go Head-to-Head

Although televised debates between the actual presidential candidates never happened, the spouses of three candidates battled it out on the Rustavi 2 TV late-night political talk show, Primetime.

Sandra Roelofs, 39, the wife of incumbent candidate Mikheil Saakashvili; Marina Madichi, 41, the wife of New Rights Party leader Davit Gamkrelidze; and Bela Alania, 44, the wife of Labor Party leader Shalva Natelashvili, participated. Ingra Grigolia, the host, said Levan Gachechiladze’s wife, Nino Mikeladze, had declined her invitation to participate.

The debate mostly involved the spouses defending their husbands’ political stances, with sharp words sometimes being exchanged.

Natelashvili’s wife, Bela Alania said she would not have advised her husband to run for re-election after what had happened on November 7. Doing everything, she said, just for the sake of power – for what she called “the presidential chair” – was not something she would recommend her husband to do.

The former first lady immediately hit back, saying: “My husband [Mikheil Saakashvili] has proven that it is not about the presidential chair; he has made an unprecedented decision and cut his own term in office by over a year.”

Indeed, she continued, Saakashvili was the only candidate capable of handling “the serious challenges” that Georgia faced. “Saakashvili has experience, an international reputation and, maybe other candidates are good individuals, but to rule the country is very difficult,” Roelofs said.

Marina Madichi, Davit Gamkrelidze’s wife, in a rare moment of verbal combativeness, jumped in at this stage, saying: “Georgia’s history has not started with this government and will not end with this government.”

Meanwhile, the real debate between Alania and Roelofs continued, with Alania saying it was difficult to rule in a country with no genuine system of checks and balances. “Of course it is difficult when one person is in charge of everything – the mayor’s office, Parliament and the entire government,” she said. “Power should be distributed among different branches of the government.”

When asked to describe their respective husbands, Roelofs said hers was “a man of his word;” Alania responded that Natelashvili was “very principled and hard-working” and Madichi said Gamkrelidze was “a just and fair person.”


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