All 25 opposition deputies elected For Georgia’s Giga Parulava as the new chairperson of Zugdidi Municipality Sakrebulo.
45-member Zugdidi Sakrebulo includes 22 deputies from the United National Movement, 3 members of ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia’s For Georgia party, and 20 councilors from Georgian Dream, the ruling party.
The Georgian Dream deputies did not participate in today’s voting.
Following the vote, the freshly elected chair thanked councilors casting ballots in his favor for taking the “step to end the crisis.”
Parulava said the position was not a “comfort zone” for him but rather a “responsibility” to the municipality and its voters.
Given that no single party holds the majority in Zugdidi Sakrebulo, Parulava expressed hopes that the municipality would set an example of “a new political culture” and cross-party collaboration for the country.
For his part, Georgian Dream councilor Otar Kadaria called the development a “political theater” and “yet another political marriage” between For Georgia and the United National Movement.
Kadaria asserted that the GD councilors would support initiatives tabled by their opponents, provided that they benefit the municipality. Kadaria, however, doubted prospects of it ever happening.
Some GD Opponents Also Angered
Parulava’s election has also stirred criticism among the opponents of the Georgian Dream.
The newly elected chair today was reminded about the controversies surrounding his party boss Giorgi Gakharia’s tenure as Interior Minister, including the violent dispersal of protesters on June 20-21, 2019 and the death of Ia Kerzaia, the principal of N6 Public School in Zugdidi, who was allegedly pressured to join the presidential campaign of GD-backed Salome Zurabishvili.
At the voting session today, Natia Letodiani, daughter of one of the protesters who lost an eye during June 20 dispersal, dubbed the election of ex-Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia’s teammate to the chairmanship “a shame” for the town.
Letodiani, who serves as opposition Droa party member, said neither the Georgian Dream, nor the UNM, nor For Georgia have the moral right to speak about the cases of Ia Kerzaia, Temirlan Machalikashvili, and the June 20 events.
“I am very interested in what the opposition has to say to their voters,” she addressed the opposition councilors.
The son of late Ia Kerzaia, Bachana Shengelia, also called Parulava’s election “extremely wrong” and “harmful” for the town and its supporters. The family of Kerzaia believes the political pressure on the principal led to her death.
Calling For Georgia’s coming to the helm of the Sakrebulo “very disappointing,” Shengelia said “one should not make deals with criminals… We will be the ones reaping the consequences of this decision very soon.”
To date, in two other municipalities – in the hung Senaki and Batumi Sakrebulos – the councilors still have not elected their chairs.
This article was last updated at 20:55 for clarity.