Public movement Lelo led by TBC Bank founder Mamuka Khazaradze, former Parliament Speaker Davit Usupashvili’s Development Movement and the New Rights party set up a new political union “Lelo for Georgia” on Sunday. The three organizations announced about their plans to cooperate closely a couple of weeks ago.
The new party held its inaugural congress on December 22, where Mamuka Khazaradze was elected as the chairman of the party, Badri Japaridze – as the secretary general and Davit Usupashvili – as the chairman of the political council.
Addressing the audience, Mamuka Khazaradze, chairman of the party, slammed the current and previous governments, saying that “the bipolar system ruled by morally bankrupted and conflicting political forces has been established in our political space, while just Lelo is its alternative and just Lelo will unite the Georgian public.”
Speaking about the party’s priorities, Khazaradze said “the rule of law should be established in the country and the judiciary should be renewed,” stressing the need for reducing bureaucratic expenses and decentralizing governance.
Discussing Georgia’s foreign policy, Khazaradze said “we announce that the Euro-Atlantic space is our civilizational choice,” adding that “we should always remember that 20% of our country is occupied and that Russia is an occupier.”
He also noted that “openly pro-Russian forces have appeared in the government” and that “our spiritual foothold – the Orthodox Church is being attacked in various forms.”
Khazaradze also spoke of relations with the Abkhaz and Ossetians, as well as ethnic minorities in general. “For us reconciling with the Abkhaz and Ossetian society, regaining their trust is a principal issue; Taking care of and preserving Abkhaz and Ossetian languages, their identity and culture [is a principal issue for our party], for there is no territory and no country without people” – Khazaradze noted, adding that “as for ethnic minorities living in our country, their integration and involvement in state building process should be strengthened.”
Speaking of economy and business, Khazaradze said that the party plans to attract USD 20 billion investments in coming years, to turn Georgia into “the region’s financial center,” to promote small and medium businesses. He also noted that a deep sea port and the city should be built in Anaklia that “will be the first stop on the road of IDPs’ return to Abkhazia.”
Discussing economy, Khazaradze also said that it should be based on free market principles and that economy should be free from state intervention. He noted however, that “we believe there has to be dignified minimum wage that will be defined through rational dialogue between business and the state.”
Other founders of the new party also addressed the congress.
“The key task of Lelo is to become number one opponent of the ruling force through uncompromising fight and professionalism in order to replace Georgian Dream,” Pikria Chikhradze of the New Rights party said.
Davit Usupashvili, leader of the Development Movement, said in his address that “my colleagues from the Development Movement and myself worked a lot over the past two years to become the co-founders of a serious political union and I am glad that this day has come.”
Grigol Gegelia also addressed the congress, stressing that “we are coming [to politics to fight] for what our right is – universal democracy, quality education, dignified and safe work, clean air; we are fighting for freedom, equality and development and our aim is to establish the state where the desires of the common people are fulfilled.”
On July 24, 2019, Mamuka Khazaradze and his business partner, Badri Japaridze were charged over money-laundering involving a USD 17 million transaction that took place in 2008.
Former Parliament Speaker Davit Usupashvili announced about foundation of his Development Movement in June 2017, but did not register the party officially. The Development Movement ran in the 2017 local elections, but legally it was represented by the National Forum party.
The New Rights party was established in 2001 by the former members of Citizens’ Union led by ex-President Eduard Shevardnadze. The party was fighting against the rule of first, Eduard Shevardnadze and then Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement.
The New Rights, in coalition with the Industrialists party, managed to garner 17 mandates during the 2004 parliamentary elections held following the Rose Revolution of 2003. The party, however, failed to gain enough support during the 2008 and subsequent parliamentary elections.
Mamuka Katsitadze, one of the leaders of the New Rights party, said on December 22 that the party will officially cease functioning after going through necessary procedures.