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Former Parliament Speaker to Enter Presidential Race

Davit Usupashvili, former parliament speaker and the leader of the opposition Development Movement, announced on July 31 that he will run in the October presidential elections.

“I am heading to the 2018 presidential polls absolutely convinced that I can win the elections and become a good president,” Usupashvili said, adding that he has “no illusions that it will be easy… but if the process is fair and transparent I will gladly compete with all contenders.”

The former Parliament Speaker added that his candidacy might also be endorsed by the Free Democrats, a liberal political party in Georgia.

Usupashvili also touched upon his July 19 consultations with the incumbent President, saying the two failed to agree to join forces as Giorgi Margvelashvili has no long-term “plans for party politics.”

Margvelashvili confirmed Usupashvili’s account at a press briefing today, telling journalists that “at this stage” he is not ready for “a party-building” exercise. The President, however, did not specify whether he would run for his second term.

Davit Usupashvili, led the Republican Party in 2005-2013 and chaired the Parliament in 2012-2016 as one of the leaders of the Georgian Dream coalition. The Republican Party split from the coalition and ran independently for the 2016 parliamentary elections, but performed dismally, finishing with just 1.55 percent of nationwide votes. In 2017, Usupashvili set up a new political movement to contest in the 2017 municipal elections, but garnered only 0.76% of nationwide votes.

Several opposition leaders have announced their intentions to run in the October polls, including Grigol Vashadze of the UNM-led coalition, Davit Bakradze of the European Georgia party, Shalva Natelashvili of the Labor Party and Zurab Japaridze of the New Political Center – Girchi. Nino Burjanadze of the Democratic Movement-United Georgia plans to join the presidential race as well.

The ruling party has yet to make a decision on its presidential candidate. According to media reports, the Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia will not have its presidential candidate and will instead endorse the candidacy of former Foreign Minister Salome Zurabishvili.

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