Expelled MP to Vie for Rustavi By-Elections

The opposition Lelo party has named Badri Japaridze as the majoritarian candidate in Rustavi parliamentary by-elections of April 2, after he was stripped of his legislative mandate by the Georgian Dream-led Parliament yesterday.

Japaridze on February 15 accused the GD party of political persecution and argued Lelo’s decision came in response to the “destructive move” by the governing party.

The Lelo leader told government-critical Formula TV he hopes the other opposition outfits will back his candidacy, arguing the opposition must present a “united front” in the Rustavi by-elections.

He stressed the need for the opposition to show their unity to the public and to “make a difference, a dynamic which should ultimately bring us real democratic change in this country.”

With regards to the position of other opposition parties, Japaride has not yet received an official endorsement as most of them have not held intra-party discussions over his nomination. 

MP Khatia Dekanoidze of the United National Movement said on February 15 that the party would deliberate on the matter first but stressed that Japaridze will “probably largely have” their backing in the by-elections. 

For Georgia MP Ana Buchukuri, said on February 16 that while the former Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia’s party was not going to nominate anyone in the upcoming polls, they also were not endorsing any of the candidates at this stage. “However, there is time before the elections, so let’s wait,” she added.

Parliamentary Vice-Speaker Levan Ioseliani of the Citizens party ruled out supporting Japaridze, as the party wants to nominate its own candidate.

Meanwhile, Vice-Speaker Gia Volski of the GD referred to the Tbilisi City Court recently finding Japaridze guilty of fraud, and argued the Rustavi electorate are aware “why a person with such a verdict should not be in the Parliament.”

Rustavi residents have to head to polls on April 2 to elect their representative to the Parliament after the seat was vacated by Georgian Dream’s Nino Latsabidze following her election as Rustavi Mayor in 2021 local polls.

Noteworthy, after the 2021 elections, no single party holds a majority in the Rustavi Local Council, where GD and UNM each have 16 members and For Georgia has 3. On January 31, the two opposition parties elected For Georgia’s Nodar Sherozia as the Chair of the Council. 

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