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Vashadze Continues Touring Regions, Outlines Priorities

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Grigol Vashadze, presidential candidate of the United Opposition, a coalition led by the United National Movement, is touring the regions of Georgia, meeting with activists and supporters and presenting his policy priorities.

The opposition candidate visited Batumi and Gori, after launching his runoff campaign in Kutaisi on November 4. Vashadze held indoor gatherings at both locations, accompanied by leaders of the opposition coalition, as well as politicians from partner political parties.

In both Batumi and Gori, Vashadze began his statements by thanking the voters for their support in the first round. “Rest assured that none of us takes your support for granted, we take this as a credit that we have to return with diligent work, with fighting corruption and poverty, and with serving you [24/7],” he told the voters in Batumi.

The candidate also slammed the authorities, calling the ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia party a “criminal, violent” regime, and pledging to replace it with a “nationally-minded, multi-party and pro-western” coalition government.

Vashadze also spoke about his team’s electoral promises, reiterating UNM’s earlier pledges of increasing the old age pension to GEL 400 (USD 164), teachers’ and policemen’s salaries to GEL 1,000 (USD 408) and GEL 2,000 (USD 816), respectively.

The candidate vowed to cut bureaucratic expenses for that purpose. “There is [enough] money in the budget, but not for [ordinary] citizens of this country; the money is spent on bureaucracy and for those loyal to the oligarch (Bidzina Ivanishvili),” he said in Batumi.

Vashadze obtained 37.74% (601,224 votes) in the first round of presidential elections, finishing second. In the runoff on November 28, he will face the ruling party-endorsed candidate Salome Zurabishvili, who garnered 38.64% of votes (615,572).

Vashadze also touched upon the issue of mortgage loans, pledging to establish a capital guarantee fund “which will attract money from foreign banks, ease mortgage financing by local banks, and consequently, halve the loan rates.” He also called for rescheduling “unfair” bank loans, and for fixing the currency rate for loan repayment at the 2012 level.

He also spoke against “monopolies” in banking, pharmaceutics and oil sectors, saying the opposition will establish “competitive” economic environment. “It is essential that we free our economy from corruption that has taken root in our institutions … and for that, we will need to establish an independent anti-corruption agency,” Vashadze also noted.

The candidate also pledged to privatize state-owned companies partially, to gradually reduce taxes for businesses, and to reschedule their outstanding tax debts.

Russian occupation

In Gori, which was particularly-affected during the Russo-Georgian war of 2008, Vashadze also touched upon the Russian occupation.

“There are many people in this hall and among those watching us live, who cannot go back to their homes because of the Kremlin’s imperialist policies, but this is only temporary; we will definitely return [the regions] and the Georgian flag will be hanging over the Roki tunnel (the only land pass linking Tskhinvali Region with Russia) and the Psou River (Abkhazia’s westernmost edge),” he noted.

“I would like to promise you that we will continue our non-recognition policy with peaceful, reasoned and consistent foreign policy and we will manage to restore our territorial integrity peacefully so that the Georgians, the Abkhaz and the South Ossetians live together in peace and prosperity, as full-fledged members of western family,” the candidate added.

Vashadze also pledged to increase social benefits for the internally displaced persons and for those living close to the Russian-held territories.

Vashadze’s opponent in the upcoming runoff – Salome Zurabishvili – resumed the election campaign on November 8, but has not been actively campaigning. The ruling party, which endorsed Zurabishvili’s presidential bid, but had previously touted her as an independent, has decided to take over the campaign organization entirely following her unexpectedly meek performance in the first round.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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