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Opposition Ponders Joint Tbilisi Mayor Ballot

With the 2021 local self-government elections slated for October, which also decides the fate of snap parliamentary elections, opposition leaders are considering a joint Mayoral candidate for Tbilisi, the capital, albeit with the consensus being nowhere on the horizon.

Nika Melia, the chairperson of the United National Movement, the largest opposition party, said on May 31 the opposition should prioritize reaching a common understanding for the Tbilisi Mayoral election and avoid competition, which would only “benefit” the ruling Georgian Dream party. Asked if he considers running, Melia answered that he has not yet discussed the topic with any of his opposition colleagues.

Lelo for Georgia party leader, MP Mamuka Khazaradze was more specific, saying a non-political, manager-like figure would be the best pick for the opposition to defeat a Georgian Dream candidate. Such a candidate could be a “head of some large company,” or a Georgian successfully working overseas, argued the banker-turned-politician. He added that the non-partisan candidate would work to implement an election program co-developed by the opposition forces.

Zurab Japaridze, leader of the right-libertarian Girchi – More Freedom party said the proposal is “rather interesting” and “worth discussing at least.” Japaridze also said his party colleagues are voicing intentions to run an independent campaign for local polls, but they are so far undecided.

Anna Dolidze, who recently inaugurated her For People political party, slammed MP Khazaradze’s proposal, noting that a “representative of big business,” would be ill-suited for the Mayoral post, having only worked for personal profit. She added that it would be “anomalous” for a person directly elected, such as the Tbilisi Mayor, not to have experience in politics.

European Georgia’s Giga Bokeria stated that a joint ballot, partisan or not, “is the only way” for the Mayoral vote. It is important for the opposition leaders to display readiness “for reasonable agreements despite their differences so that the [Georgian Dream founder Bidzina] Ivanishvili regime can be defeated,” Bokeria underscored.

It so far remains unclear who will run as the ruling Georgian Dream’s candidate for the Tbilisi Mayor. Incumbent Kakha Kaladze, elected in 2017, has not yet announced plans of running for re-election.

This year’s local elections are to decide the fate of the early parliamentary polls, long-demanded by the opposition. As per the EU-brokered April 19 agreement, early parliamentary polls shall be called in 2022 if GD receives less than 43% of valid proportional votes in the upcoming local vote.

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