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UNM to Enter Parliament, Refuses to Sign EU-Brokered Deal

The United National Movement (UNM), Georgia’s largest opposition party, announced on May 30 it will enter the Parliament, thus ending the months-long boycott that started after the controversial October 31, 2020 elections.

Party Chairman Nika Melia said it was the “most correct decision in the given moment,” aimed to leave “oligarch” Bidzina Ivanishvili, the governing Georgian Dream party founder, outside the “comfort zone.” The party leader also cited economic problems faced by the country as the reason behind the decision, pledging to “fight” at all levels.

The UNM, however, refuses to sign the EU-brokered April 19 Agreement. Expressing “biggest respects” towards the Western diplomats involved in the mediation process, Melia said “one of the” clauses in the document led to abstention to join the deal.

While Melia did not name the exact clause, the refusal follows heated controversies surrounding the amnesty provision in the Agreement, as critics cited concerns over the potential pardoning of those responsible for grave abuses during the violent dispersal of the June 20-21, 2019 anti-occupation protests.

The decision to join the legislature came after the voting at the party’s political council, convened following weeks-long party-internal deliberations over ending the boycott, as UNM leaders disagreed over the future steps.

International reactions

The EU Delegation to Georgia and the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi in a joint statement dubbed the move “another positive step towards the strengthening of Georgia’s democratic institutions,” but expressed regret over the UNM refusing to sign the April 19 deal.

The statement highlighted that the largest opposition party “shares the responsibility” to engage in the legislature to address “perceptions” of politicized justice, work on “ambitious” electoral and judicial reforms, and participate in power-sharing at the Parliament.

“By signing this agreement the UNM would demonstrate its commitment to carry out these fundamental objectives in the interest of Georgia, its citizens, EU-Georgia relations, and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic future,” the statement stressed.

MEP Viola von Cramon-Taubadel (Germany, The Greens/EFA), called the UNM’s decision not to sign the deal “very regrettable.” “Avoiding political responsibility and free-riding on the cost of rest of the opposition is a sign of nonconstructive politics,” she underscored.

NB: The article was amended at 13:13 on May 31, 2021, to add subsequent statements delivered by the EU Delegation to Georgia and the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, and MEP Viola von Cramon-Taubadel.

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