Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, campaigning for the ruling Georgian Dream ahead of the runoffs, has warned about potential tensions between the central government and municipality mayors if opposition hopefuls win in the second rounds, prompting criticism from the opposition.
In his initial October 22 remarks in western Senaki municipality, where GD’s Vakhtang Gadelia is facing front-runner Koba Nakopia of the United National Movement, the Prime Minister suggested the opposition mayor would “not have any prospects” to implement their plans.
“What prospects does Koba Nakopia have, what could he do, all the more so the central government is ours. He cannot make a step without us,” the Prime Minister asserted in Senaki, one of the twenty municipalities where mayoral runoffs are slated for October 30.
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United National Movement’s mayoral candidate for Kutaisi, Khatia Dekanoidze held a briefing in response to Garibashvili’s remarks on the same day, 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.
She asserted that Prime Minister Garibashvili was neglecting the principle of self-governance.
Prime Minister Strikes Back
The Prime Minister tried to clarify his words over the weekend and retaliated at the opposition, accusing them of “double standards.”
On October 23, in western Tskaltubo town, the PM stressed that by framing in an “absurd” way the local polls as a referendum for holding potential snap parliamentary elections, the opposition “stroked a line through municipal elections, over the concept of local governance, the constitution, the law, absolutely everything.”
The Prime Minister maintained all he meant was the expectation that the opposition would undermine the central government, not vice versa. “There will be, on their part, constant sabotage, chaos, unrest, panic, and blame-game towards the central government.”
The PM continued that he sought to increase the budget of local municipalities and finance large-scale regional projects, and stressed that “for Tskaltubo, we have grandiose projects and it is critically important for Tskaltubo Mayor to be, at the same time, the representative of the central government and in full coordination with [it].”
Later, on October 24, Irakli Garibashvili brought in some examples and pointed to Ozurgeti and Tianeti as outlier municipalities headed by opposition mayors, whom as he said, constantly failed to coordinate with the central government.
“There have been constant sabotages for four years, and nothing special happened in these municipalities… In fact, people lost out.”
In 2017, Konstantine Sharashenidze, independent, and Tamaz Mechiauri, an estranged former GD member who went on to create his own For United Georgia party, gained the upper hand in these municipalities.
PM Garibashvili reassured the public in Tianeti on October 24 that all municipalities would receive the funding allocated to them. “But the government has additional leverage,” referring to additional financial resources the central government could offer the municipalities.
If an opposition candidate was to win the runoff, the Prime Minister noted, “it would be a barrier for us, and we would have less motivation” to finance extra large-scale projects the central government has envisioned for municipalities.
Consults with our interactive map for the first round results: