The United National Movement (UNM), Georgia’s largest opposition party, confirmed Nika Melia, 41, as Chairperson at the 9th party congress of December 27, replacing Grigol Vashadze, who had held the post since 2017 but quit the party recently citing differences with the leadership.
Nika Melia and Levan Varshalomidze, former Head of Adjara region Government competed for the post in an online Facebook poll as part of the UNM’s efforts to democratize intra-party decision-making. Melia received 13,491 netizen votes, amounting to 64.9% of the 20,779 votes cast.
Addressing the party congress, the newly elected Chairperson said “the National Movement aims to take responsibility again and create a rich, western-style Georgia, where human freedom, happiness and prosperity represent the main value[s].”
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Melia presented a plan for promoting citizen participation in the UNM party activities, including, among others, supporting “interesting” public initiatives, and introducing a model of public party finance.
“It is now important for the UNM to open its doors for everyone,” the new Chairperson said, adding that his main goal as party leader is to convince citizens without strong party affiliations to be part of a UNM-led movement.
Former Georgian President and UNM leader-in-exile Mikheil Saakashvili virtually addressed the congress, congratulating attendants for conducting the first intra-party digital elections and Nika Melia over his election victory.
“Nika for me is a symbol of perseverance, courage, and self-sacrifice, without whom nothing can be accomplished,” the former President stated.
Previous Chairperson Grigol Vashadze left the party two weeks ago, citing disagreement over “tactics chosen by the majority of the UNM leadership,” as well as the appearance of “odious figures” around and inside the party. Vashadze also expressed concern over “the campaign of attacks and insults” against the western diplomats by UNM-affiliated figures.