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PM on the Offensive During Samegrelo Campaign Trip

Visiting Samegrelo region ahead of the local election runoffs, slated for October 30, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has gone on the scathing offensive against United National Movement leaders.

The Georgian Dream lost ground to UNM in proportional votes of several municipalities in Samegrelo. The UNM grabbed the lead in the voting for Zugdidi, Tsalenjikha and Senaki Municipal assemblies, making significant gains. UNM mayoral candidates also came first in the mayoral first-round races of these three municipalities.

Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and GD chair Irakli Kobakhidze have been on a campaign trail for the ruling party, planning to visit all 20 municipalities where runoffs are to take place. They started their trips from October 19, went to Khelvachauri, Batumi, Ozurgeti and Rustavi, and continued to meet their voters, campaign offices, and candidates in Martvili, Chkhorotsku, Tsalenjikha, and Zugdidi. Today they are visiting Poti, Khobi, and Senaki.

Local Polls 2021: Electoral Map

Lambasting Saakashvili, UNM leaders

Speaking with reporters in Senaki, PM Garibashvili today called jailed ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili “fake Hitler,” albeit noting that the comparison could be “paradoxical and irrelevant.” The Georgian PM argued Saakashvili “imitates in everything” the former dictator of Germany.

“When they imprisoned Hitler for the first time, he went on hunger strike, and many people visited him. This pitiful man [Saakashvili] put on a similar scene in prison,” PM Garibashvili said.

Alluding to Saakashvili’s possible wish to return to power, the Georgian Prime Minister said it is “nearly the same” on the scale of Georgia “if Hitler had demanded to return to power after the Second World War.”

Taking an aim at Tbilisi mayoral hopeful Nika Melia, PM Garibashvili claimed Saakashvili has “already decided” to dismiss him from UNM chairpersonship. The Georgian PM argued Melia’s announcement he would resign from party leadership in case of winning over incumbent Mayor Kakha Kaladze in the runoff was a “preventive statement.”

The Georgian PM also took aim at the opposition coalition for Tbilisi, announced by Melia, pointing out that some members of the parties that joined were previously in the UNM. He pointed at Girchi – More Freedom’s Zurab Japaridze, previously a UNM member, and at European Georgia, initially founded by politicians who split from the UNM in 2017.

Garibashvili also criticized Gigi Ugulava, Poti mayoral candidate of the UNM and former Tbilisi mayor, over what he called “theft of state budget”, saying Ugulava is a “corrupt man who [nonetheless] dared to come to Poti.”

Arguing the UNM administration had “destroyed the country, tortured and brought misery to people,” the Georgian Prime Minister vowed GD will not allow “this [happening] for a second time.” The former UNM officials have no place in the future Georgian politics, he asserted.

Also on October 22, PM Garibashvili denigrated UNM’s mayoral candidate for Senaki mayorship Koba Nakopia as a “man who has done nothing” for the municipality. He does not even have a house in Senaki but wants to be its mayor, Garibashvili argued. He claimed that Nakopia plans to leave the country after the elections and head for Ukraine where he allegedly is planning to take up a job at a private company.

“This is what we are talking about, this is the farce and falseness that comes from oppressor Saakashvili’s team and its members. Even Saakashvili’s teammates are fleeing [the country], because their chieftain is in prison, and stay [there] for a long time,” PM Garibashvili stressed.

The Prime Minister said that if any opposition candidates win mayoral runoffs, they will “not have any prospects” to get their plans implemented since “we have control of the central government.” “He won’t be able to take any step without us,” PM Garibashvili said about Koba Nakopia’s possible mayoral victory in Senaki.

On October 21 in Zugdidi, Garibashvili criticized Anzor Melia, UNM’s mayoral candidate for the town. Stressing that the UNM chair Nika Melia’s father may be a “distinguished doctor,” he implied he was incompetent and could not rule Zugdidi “without having any idea how a municipality is governed.”

Opposition slams “hate campaign”

United National Movement’s mayoral candidate for Kutaisi, Khatia Dekanoidze held a briefing in response to Garibashvili’s remarks, saying the Prime Minister “is out of control.”

“He does not understand what the state, elections, or democracy means,” stated Dekanoidze and went on to say that PM is “blackmailing” the public by threatening to block the local decision-making if people vote for the opposition.

“They are not interested in the Georgian people expressing their will through elections,” Dekanoidze stressed and said GD is running the “hate campaign.” Poti mayoral hopeful, Gigi Ugulava also said the Prime Minister is “spewing poison” during their Samegrelo trip while adding the Georgian Prime Minister “has become ridiculous.”

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