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TV Anchor-Turned-Politician Leaves Parliament, Returns to Media

Opposition United National Movement party MP Zaal Udumashvili, a former prominent TV anchor, has announced that he leaves politics and quits his lawmaker’s mandate to return back to journalism amid recent developments related to the media.

“Free speech and independent media are under threat,” he said in a briefing on May 29. “Thus I decided to return back to the media. I am not leaving the battlefield, I remain on the frontline but I change the place of my dislocation.”

The former TV anchor refrained from naming which media outlet he plans to join, but told the public that “we will soon meet on air.” 

Udumashvili, former prominent anchor of Rustavi 2 TV’s news program Kurieri, ventured in politics in 2017, joining the United National Movement and running for Tbilisi Mayor. Following the change of ownership of the TV station in 2019, the Kurieri staff has since moved to Mtavari Arkhi TV, established by the former management of the Rustavi 2 TV, including now-imprisoned Nika Gvaramia. 

Summing up Udumashvili’s five-year-long work at the UNM, the largest opposition party’s chair Nika Melia said that had the former TV anchor not joined the outfit in 2017 “it would be hard to say” if they would have been able to compete in the 2017 local polls at all.

The UNM leader expressed his confidence that Udumashvili will make a “significant” contribution to protecting freedom of speech in the country.

With Udumashvili’s departure from the Parliament, the United National Movement-led faction will now remain with 29 lawmakers. The group will not be able to replace Udumashvili, as it annulled its proportional lists in December 2020, during the opposition boycott of the Parliament over the “rigged” general vote.

Udumashvili had secured his seat in the Parliament in the 2020 polls, being ninth in the UNM’s proportional party list. He entered the legislature alongside the UNM colleagues later in June 2021, following the release of Nika Melia from detention. MORE

In 2021, Udumashvili also ran as the mayor of Mtskheta Municipality, losing to Georgian Dream candidate Dimitri Zurabishvili with 35.41% of the votes against 55.27%.

In the 2017 Tbilisi mayoral race meanwhile, Udumashvili landed third with 16.59% of votes, behind Citizens party leader Aleko Elisashvili, then independent, with 17.48% of votes and GD’s Kakha Kaladze with 51.09% of votes.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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