Grigol Vashadze, presidential candidate of the United Opposition, a coalition led by the United National Movement (UNM), says the opposition parties will convene a joint assembly tomorrow evening to hash out their post-runoff strategy.
Vashadze made the statement at his press briefing on November 29, five hours after two separate exit polls gave lead to the ruling party-backed candidate Salome Zurabishvili.
“We decided to solicit the opinions of our supporters, to inform them of our plans; we will have an assembly at 6pm tomorrow,” he said, calling on the opposition supporters to attend the gathering.
Grigol Vashadze’s statement came shortly after ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, UNM’s honorary chairman, questioned the legitimacy of elections and called for mass protests.
In a live interview with Rustavi 2 TV, Saakashvili said: “what was happening in the last few weeks was not an election, was not a democratic process and had nothing to do with people’s will; this was [an election run by] criminals, swindlers and villains.”
“I call on Georgians not to recognize the election results … the country’s main robber has taken hold of every state institution, so now is the time for the public to take in its hands protection of constitution and its freedoms,” Saakashvili noted.
“Regardless of the results we see tomorrow, we are moving to mass movement of disobedience. I call upon Georgian police to stand on the side of the people, I call upon the armed forces, not to fulfill illegal orders, and I call upon upstanding civil servants to distance themselves from the criminal, Mafioso gang that took hold of Georgia,” he added.
Asked to comment the ex-President’s statements, Grigol Vashadze said: “what has not been taken through our collective decision and has not been announced from this podium, remains to be one person’s individual position.”
Vashadze was less assertive in his initial statements as well. In his remarks delivered immediately after the exit poll results, the candidate said he respected the Rustavi 2 survey, but preferred to wait for official results before giving his final assessments.
He said the opposition managed to obtain over 750,000 votes against the backdrop of “total mobilization, vote-buying and involvement of criminals, corrupt officials and drug users.”
“Irrespective of the results, we have achieved two results – first that the United Opposition has established itself as a powerful union that is not going to split,” the candidate noted.
“Through these elections the government has lost the last signs of legitimacy; irrespective of what inanimate object they had put in the presidential palace, their game is up, since Georgia has not seen such shameful elections when it comes to democracy,” he added.
Nika Melia of the United National Movement echoed Vashadze’s sentiments, telling reporters that the opposition response will be decided “jointly, through consensus,” and that they will stay within the confines of the law.
Reactions in partner parties
David Bakradze, of the European Georgia, who finished third in the first round of the polls has thanked all voters who have turned out to vote today, especially those who “did so in circumstances of greater risks” created by the government for the opposition supporters.
He said “the election process was very heavy, and contained considerable violations, especially during the runoff, when the government used all resources at its disposal, including administrative resources, pressure, voter bribing, using street gangs and criminals in election strategy. This is a step back for the Georgian democracy.
When it comes to the election day, Bakradze said “we realize the great responsibility placed on each politician and the political force, so certaingly we would wait for the final results…would consult with other parties as well as CSOs and international observers and take our decision very calmly, in a thought-through manner in the nearest future.”
The Republian Party veteran David Berdzenishvili, said in defining the further course of action Grigol Vashadze’s position “has primary political importance” for him. Berdzenishvili said, while Vashadze would obviously consult UNM, “nobody can define his position for him”, hinting at former President MIkheil Saakashvili.
“We the Republicans are Vashadze’s supporters and back his position… Revolution leads to hatred – these are Vashadze’s own words,” said Berdzenishvili, adding that his party would announce its position following Vashadze’s statement about the preferred course of Action.
Tamar Kordzaia, one of the younger leaders of the Republicans said “it is obvious demand of the voters, that the opposition cooperates”, adding that Mr. Vashadze “is a leader that can be at the head of this process, consult all opposition parties.” She argued for common position, so that the united opposition can achieve more during the Parliamentary polls.