Presidential candidate Nino Burjanadze’s party Democratic Movement-United Georgia (DMUG) has recently claimed that disillusioned by current government’s policies, “hundreds” of activists and members of Georgian Dream coalition are quitting PM Ivanishvili’s party and joining Burjanadze’s DMUG.
PM Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia (GDDG) party says that although there have been only few cases of activists switching sides, reports about mass outflow of members is “black PR trick” used by competitors in a campaign ahead of the October 27 presidential election.
Chief of Burjanadze’s campaign headquarters, Gigla Baramidze, said “hundreds” of activists were joining DMUG party “not only from Georgian Dream, but from the United National Movement as well.”
“That’s a natural process; we are not working on attracting activists from [other parties]; they simply see more perspective with Burjanadze,” said Baramidze.
“It is ludicrous and also outrageous when our competitor… uses such dirty tricks. Of course I would disagree if withdrawal of one or two people from the party is described as massive outflow of activists… I call on everyone not to use such cheap tricks,” Armaz Akhvlediani, executive secretary of GDDG, told Maestro TV on August 23.
Like GD’s presidential candidate Giorgi Margvelashvili, Burjanadze too was campaigning this week in eastern region of Kakheti.
In her campaign Burjanadze focuses on number of issues, prioritizing foreign policy; she says that she does not want to create overly high expectations to voters as new president’s powers will be significantly cut under the new constitutional provisions.
Burjanadze, who was parliament speaker from 2001 to 2008 and served as an acting president twice, criticizes GD’s foreign policy accusing the government of a failure to take “bold” steps in relationship with Russia. She argues that the government shuns away from high-level contacts with the Russian leadership out of fear being labeled as pro-Russian. She says that she’s not afraid of being called pro-Russian and would engage in high-level talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin if elected as president.
“I know how to speak with Putin; I know his stance towards Georgia and Georgian problems and I told him unambiguously that territorial integrity is our major priority and I know that I will be able to mend ties with Russia,” she said in an interview with a local television station in Gurjaani, town in Kakheti region, on August 23.
“While Bidzina Ivanishvili is really making moderate remarks in respect of Russia, all the other officials – ministers, lawmakers, say that Russia is an occupying power with whom they will not speak unless it withdraws from Georgia; they say that they will not restore diplomatic relations with Russia unless Georgian territories are liberated,”
Burjanadze criticized the government for not engaging in “full-scale negotiations” with Russia and limiting ongoing bilateral dialogue only with trade and economic issues. She says that even trade issues will not be fully resolved in the condition of absence of “full-scale negotiations” with Russia.
Burjanadze also criticized PM Ivanishvili for saying in an interview with Bloomberg that he expects Georgia to join NATO in four years.
“Can anyone explain how are we going to do that? We won’t be able to join the NATO as long as Russian troops remain in Abkhazia and Samachablo [South Ossetia]; we should either say no to these territories and say that Georgia is joining NATO without these territories or declare that Georgia has no perspective of joining NATO,” Burjanadze said. “Ivanishvili has not told us any magic word that would convince me that it’s possible to withdraw Russian troops from Abkhazia and Ossetia, to reconcile with these territories and join NATO with united territories in four years.”
On domestic issues, Burjanadze criticizes the government for pursuing political cohabitation with “criminal regime” of President Saakashvili. She was Saakashvili’s ally before quitting UNM party just before the parliamentary elections in 2008. Burjanadze, whose party did not run in the October 2012 parliamentary elections, led the street protest rallies, which came to a violent end on May 26, 2011 after riot police broke up the demonstration on the Rustaveli Avenue.
During campaigning in Kakheti, Burjanadze also said when asked about her competitors in the presidential race: “Only large finances and personal authority of Bidzina Ivanishvili can be my competitors; candidates themselves – none of them are capable of competing with me.”