A day after the United National Movement’s split, the lawmakers, who entered the Parliament through UNM’s party list and who are now planning to set up a new political union, dismissed MP Nika Melia from UNM’s 21-member faction’s chairmanship.
The faction was renamed to European Georgia and it will be led by MP Sergo Ratiani, replacing Melia, who opted for staying in the United National Movement.
UNM lawmakers who decided to remain in the party were absent at the faction meeting on January 13; they are expected to set up a new faction outside of the parliamentary minority, the status of which, will be retained by the lawmakers who parted ways with UNM.
“The National Movement will definitely have a parliamentary faction, which will not be part of the [parliamentary] minority,” Zurab Melikishvili, UNM member and former MP, told reporters on Friday.
United National Movement for Georgia’s Advancement, another faction within the parliamentary minority group, was renamed to European Georgia for Better Future. The faction chairperson Elene Khoshtaria said that MPs Irakli Abesadze and Tengiz Gunava will move to the faction, to replace MPs Roman Gotsiridze and Salome Samadashvili, who decided to stay in the United National Movement.
Koshtaria added that the European Georgia is only the faction name and it does not mean that the future political union will have an identical name.
European Georgia is also the name of a nominal political party, which entered the Parliament in coalition with the United National Movement. The party, founded by MP Gigi Tsereteli’s father in 1999, gained the status of a qualified political party and secured a seat in the Central Election Commission along with budgetary funding following 2016 Parliamentary Elections. It is not unusual for established political parties in Georgia to run with nominal parties in elections, since it allows for procedural and financial privileges. Tsereteli did not rule out the possibility of using the European Georgia as an alternative political platform for the disgruntled party leadership already on December 23.
Out of the 27 lawmakers, who entered the Parliament through the United National Movement’s party list, the following 20 MPs left the party: Davit Bakradze, leader of the parliamentary minority group; Giga Bokeria, Sergo Ratiani, Elene Khoshtaria, Sergi Kapanadze, Irma Nadirashvili, Gigi Tsereteli, Akaki Bobokhidze, Khatuna Gogorishvili, Giorgi Tugushi, Zurab Chiaberashvili, Otar Kakhidze, Giorgi Gviniashvili, Tengiz Gunava, Lasha Damenia, Irakli Abesadze, Lela Keburia, Mamuka Chikovani, Giorgi Kandelaki and Zaza Kedelashvili.
The following lawmakers remain in the United National Movement: Nika Melia, Salome Samadashvili, Roman Gotsiridze and Tina Bokuchava. MPs Koba Nakopia and Ramaz Nikolaishvili are also thought to be backing Mikheil Saakashvili. The position of MP Azer Suleimanov is yet unknown.
The exact composition of factions will only be known after the parliamentary bureau’s meeting, which has to formally acknowledge the decisions.
UNM will have to assemble at least six MPs to establish a parliamentary faction. Parliamentary faction is a group of at least six MPs, which gives certain privileges to its members, involving a seat and right to vote in the parliament’s bureau (the body which determines the parliamentary sessions’ agenda), guaranteed seats in committees, investigative and other ad hoc commissions and parliamentary delegations, as well as allocation of more time during debates and discussions in the Parliament.
The GDDG parliamentary majority unites five parliamentary factions, while the UNM parliamentary minority had two factions and the Alliance of Patriots has one faction.
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