Opposition United National Movement and For Georgia councilors elected today FG’s Irakli Kacharava as Senaki Municipality Council Chair amid heated procedural dispute with the ruling Georgian Dream party.
The 33-member hung Senaki Sakrebulo has been unable to elect new chair for some three months now, as none of the rival camps had the majority in the council. Following local elections in October, GD secured 16 seats, while UNM has 13 and ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia’s FG has four.
But the stalemate began after FG deputy Ilia Akhalaia quit the mandate in early December, leaving the two opposition groups with a total of 16 mandates, insufficient to endorse new chair.
Things took a controversial turn on February 9, when 16 opposition councilors endorsed the credentials of new FG deputy Nikoloz Shamatava, in a move that GD and Sakrebulo staff argued violated the law.
The GD said as per the law the opposition councilors had no right to convene the session to accept the new deputy as they fell short of the quorum of 17 attendees amid the ruling party’s boycott.
“In a gross violation of law, [opposition] have taken unprecedented decision not only for the Georgian legal system but for the civilized world,” GD councilor Saba Odisharia referred today to opposition’s endorsement of the new member, in a briefing ahead of the vote for chair.
Odisharia said the governing party is taking the issue to the Senaki District Court to demand among others the suspension of any decisions taken by the Sakrebulo.
Meanwhile, the opposition has maintained that the February 9 session was in fact the continuation of the first sitting in early December, which had convened with a quorum of 32 members.
For Georgia’s Berdia Sichinava claimed that it takes 12 votes to endorse a new member, thus the opposition was acting within the law during the process.
Sichinava instead accused the ruling Georgian Dream party of trying to “sabotage” the Council’s activities by refusing to attend its sittings.
Protest over the procedural battle prompted the Chief of Sakrebulo Staff, Vepkhvia Rusia to resign from his position today.
“I do not know what is going on at the Sakrebulo anymore,” Rusia explained.
Rusia also cited a verbal confrontation between the opposition Sakrebulo members and the staff during the controversial February 9 session, as well as pressure from both sides as another reason for his decision.
For the time being, the Sakrebulo of Batumi, Georgia’s second largest city, remains the only Council without a chair.
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