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Georgian Dream, Opposition Respond to President

Ruling Georgian Dream party Chair Irakli Kobakhidze has said President Salome Zurabishvili’s address “aimed directly against Georgia receiving EU candidate status.”

The governing party chairperson added at the June 15 briefing that the President “repeats the lies on which the United National Movement and its satellites’ anti-state campaign is based. We will leave it to the public to decide why [Salome Zurabishvili] joined the [narrative] of the radical opposition.”

Salome Zurabishvili’s lengthy address late on June 14 outlined the “weighty picture” and Georgia’s “spoiled work” in Brussels in the lead-up to the decision on its EU candidate status. The President criticized the government over offending international partners, saying that as Georgia eyes the EU candidacy the country is left with neither friends nor allies in the West to advocate for its interests. She listed a number of steps by the government that contributed to declining EU-Georgia relations, including controversial judicial appointments, ineffective decisions on the homophobic pogroms case of July 5, 2021, and quitting the EU-brokered deal of April 19, 2021. She also lambasted the government over its failure to have the sanctioning of ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili prevented in the critical resolution.

MP Kobakhidze emphasized that the President’s accusation that the ruling party spreads anti-European rhetoric has no basis, adding that “the part of European Parliamentarians who demand the release of [Mikheil] Saakashvili and [Nika] Gvaramia and the sanctioning of Bidzina Ivanishvili is not Europe.”

Per Kobakhidze’s statement, the President also failed to back up the argument for democratic backsliding in Georgia, which has been spread by the “United National Movement and its satellites.” “Democratic backsliding is a so-called perception for which there is no basis in fact,” he claimed.

He also negated the President’s remarks about “the second front” narrative being an invented lie. Ge said if sanctions had been imposed on Russia and planes full of volunteer fighters sent to Ukraine “the second front would be an already established result here.”

MP Kobakhidze also criticized the June 16 rally announced by the President, saying the call for unity with the “party of war” and “radical opposition” could not be taken seriously.

“Everyone knows very well, including in Europe, that 85% of the Georgian population supports European integration and this given fact will only be diminished by tomorrow’s unprepared rally.”

Opposition’s Response

Nika Melia, Chairperson of the United National Movement, the largest opposition party, said the President “defends and confirms her respect to Bidzina Ivanishvili, the same Bidzina Ivanishvili who is taking away our European future.”

Melia also criticized the President for condemning the pro-Europe rally planned by activists on June 20 and emphasized that by doing so, she “creates division within a society with Euro-Atlantic aspirations.”

Lelo for Georgia MP Salome Samadashvili noted that as Georgia could be left out of geopolitical opportunities, the public expects President Zurabishvili to take “effective” steps, rather than playing the role of an analyst or commentator.

MP Aleko Elisashvili from the Citizens Party said that “she wanted to defend [Bidzina Ivanishvili] and she did so. It was very nice to hear that she was so staunchly critical of the Georgian Dream.”

According to European Georgia’s Giorgi Kandelaki said President Zurabishvili did not address the public but Bidzina Ivanishvili. “[Her] the main wish was to protect Bidzina Ivanishvili from criticism and to improve his reputation.”

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