On April 6, the ruling Georgian Dream party presented Giorgi (Gega) Shengelia, incumbent Deputy Mayor of Zugdidi, as a candidate for the upcoming mayoral by-elections in this western Georgian municipality.
Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze and the GD Political Secretary, Irakli Garibashvili addressed the outdoor campaign meeting in Zugdidi, attended by party activists and supporters.
In his remarks, PM Bakhtadze focused on the infrastructural projects planned in the region, noting that the government has allocated GEL 50 million for this purpose.
He also stressed education remains his government’s key priority, and pledged that “Zugdidi will be the city, where the most modern schools, kindergartens, universities and youth organizations – everything that relates to education – will be developed first.”
He also touched upon the Anaklia deep sea port project, a USD 2.5 billion investment project in Zugdidi Municipality. “Let me say with full responsibility that the Anaklia project will definitely be completed for the benefit of our country,” he said.
Bakhtadze also stated that the ruling party chose its candidate based on three main principles – professionalism, experience and love to Zugdidi. “Zugdidi needs rapid economic development and addressing of all of the problems facing the municipality; I am sure that Gega will manage to do it… and I am sure you will make the right choice in May,” PM Bakhtadze added.
Tbilisi Mayor and GD General Secretary Kakha Kaladze spoke next, noting that “the development of Samegrelo region is especially important, as Zugdidi is located very close to Abkhazia and we need to show everyone how our cities and our regions are developing,” Kaladze said.
GD’s Political Secretary Irakli Garibashvili said poverty, unemployment and polarized political environment remain the country’s biggest political problems. “Some people are trying to stir up tensions artificially and this will bring nothing good [for the country],” he noted.
“We will never allow revanchist, destructive forces to return to power; there will never be another oppressive regime in Georgia,” Garibashvili said, noting also that “there will be no peace in the country, if we do not minimize and eradicate these risks.”
Mayoral candidate Giorgi Shengelia addressed the voters as well, thanking the ruling party leaders for their trust and pledging to build “better Zugdidi.” “I will make sure that each of you are involved in municipal decisions and will make sure that infrastructural projects are tailored to your needs,” he told the supporters.
“When you come to polling stations and circle 41 (Editor’s note: GD’s electoral number), you will be voting for peaceful development, growth, welfare and better future for Zugdidi,” the mayoral candidate said.
The campaign event came a week after GD leader Bidzina Ivanishvili traveled to Samegrelo region, in what many observers saw an attempt to cajole the voters ahead of the upcoming mayoral by-elections.
Sandra Elisabeth Roelofs, wife of Georgia’s ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili, will be the opposition candidate in Zugdidi, standing on behalf of the United Opposition, a coalition of twelve opposition parties led by the United National Movement.