New Chairman, Political Council, Secretary General Endorsed at UNM Congress
Levan Khabeishvili, the newly-elected chairman of the United National Movement, as well as the new Political Council, its Chairman and the Secretary General were endorsed at the 10th congress of the United National Movement party on February 5.
Levan Khabeishvili defeated the incumbent, Nika Melia to become the new leader of the opposition UNM party. The winner received 52.58% (21,656 votes), against Melia’s 40% (16,476 votes). The UNM held the election through an electronic voting system from January 28 to January 30.
Shortly before the elections, Nika Melia, then leader of the UNM party, accused former Interior and Defense Ministers Vano Merabishvili and Davit Kezerashvili, of using “vicious, KGB-like methods” to unseat him and promote Khabeishvili.
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Koba Nakopia was replaced as chairman of the political council by Levan Bezhashvili, while Petre Tsiskarishvili was re-elected as secretary general.
One third (35 members) of the political council was elected and the rules for electing the remaining two thirds were approved at yesterday’s congress. According to the new rule, 73 members of the political council will be elected by the regional organizations, and party chairman, the secretary general and the secretariat will each nominate 5 members..
Addressing the congress, Levan Khabeishvili said that the United National Movement continues to set new political standards, citing the January 28-30 elections, in which, he said, an unprecedented number of voters participated.
He also noted that despite the “threats, blackmail and other dirty methods” used by the government, the National Movement has never backed down and has never stopped fighting for “a better future for our people.” “This tradition will not change.”
Levan Khabeishvili emphasized that the position of the supporters would be decisive in making fundamental decisions in the party. “The National Movement returns to you and a better future of our country is in your hands,” he told the audience.
The new chairman noted that party offices will soon be opened across the country, a youth organization will be formed, a youth conference will be held and an independent space will be created for them. The party will also have a new office in Tbilisi, he added.
“We should be everywhere in all cities, districts, villages, settlements to convince our sisters and brothers that we can live in a successful, strong and united Georgia,” Khabeishvili said, adding that “the confrontation should end” and “we have to triumph over Russian malice embodied by the name of Bidzina Ivanishvili!”
At the end of his speech, the new chairman also focused on ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, saying that “he is a victim of inhumane treatment.” “Therefore, it is our duty to lead an uncompromising struggle for the liberation of Mikheil Saakashvili and our country,” he added.
Criticism voiced by teammates
Some members of the UNM party have criticized the February 5 congress. Nika Melia, former chairman of the party, wrote on Facebook that the endorsing a decision by a person behind the scenes, the congress actually abolished the electivity of the political council, because, according to the new rule, “nothing is left to be elected.”
“They talked about unity and sowed division in every step they took in the last two months. They talked about Misha and overshadowed all the issues related to him with untimely activities. They talked about a 22-year tradition of the National Movement and replaced Misha’s closest associates with their own “friends,” Melia said.
He emphasized that “this speaks of hidden objectives behind the words that lost their value”. He added: “shadow government is the same everywhere – no matter who rules or how the need for such government is explained. A shadow ruler comes with emotional promises, emptied of rationalism and pragmatism, and having had come with democracy, strengthens autocracy.”
UNM MP Khatia Dekanoidze, who announced after the election of the new leader that she would resign as the chair of the UNM parliamentary faction, wrote on Facebook that although she attended the congress, she learned about the election of the new political council post-factum. “The UNM voters and members deserve high-level involvement in the election of the political council,” she added.
Akaki Minashvili who had earlier resigned as the deputy head of the political council now refused membership, saying that the new leadership had to hold an open and public election of the political council, or “at least, take into account the position of 40% in the election of the political council.”
“Khabeishvili’s team promised its supporters large-scale elections. But it took them several days to trample on both their promise and the precedent of democracy demonstrated in the election of the chairman,” Minashvili said, adding that the legitimacy of the new political council “is equal to zero.”
“I was elected as a member of the political council so that nobody asked my opinion,” Giorgi Kirtadze, former head of the UNM’s Batumi office said, noting that he did not intend to be a member of the body whose “openness and transparency are being questioned.”
MP Eka Kherkheulidze wrote on Facebook that with yesterday’s congress the party took a significant step backward, as the party adopted the rule that “completely rejects democratic principles.”
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