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UPDATE: UNM Loses City Council Members Amid Internal Party Tensions

Georgia’s biggest opposition party, United National Movement’s (UNM) City Council (Sakrebulo) members continue to leave the party and UNM’s regional organizations amid internal tensions and a rift between the current UNM leader, Levan Khabeishvili, and the ousted UNM chairman, Nika Melia. On December 6, 10 out of 11 UNM Khobi Sakrebulo members departed the party. In total, 30 members left the UNM’s Khobi organization.

Earlier, on December 5, 14 members of the Zugdidi Sakrebulo from UNM left the party. At a press briefing held on the same day, the former UNM Sakrebulo members expressed their dissatisfaction with the developments within the party, claiming that the party’s leadership “has made many mistakes.” In response, they announced their intention to form a new platform.

Maia Kalandia, a member of Sakrebulo and a long-time UNM member, emphasized their commitment to core democratic values and the ongoing struggle to free former President Mikheil Saakashvili from prison. Kalandia declared: “to this end, we are leaving the United National Movement party.”

This followed the departure from the UNM ranks on 4 December of Giorgi Kirtadze, a member of the UNM faction in the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara, and several other members of the party’s Batumi office.

The move came in the same context of tensions over the party leadership. Kirtadze and others are believed to be aligning themselves with Nika Melia, who has repeatedly announced his intention to leave the party. During the briefing, Kirtadze reiterated the party’s continued commitment to bringing down Bidzina Ivanishvili’s regime.

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. The party has since been in turmoil.

Note: This news was updated on December 6 at 15:04 to include information about UNM representatives leaving Khobi Sakrebulo.

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