Georgian opposition nominates two coalition candidates in Tbilisi for municipal elections
The main opposition forces in Georgia have nominated joint candidates for positions of mayor and sakrebulo (city council) of Tbilisi in the local elections of October 2, 2021. However, in the regions, the opposition forces will nominate their own candidates.
One of the opposition leaders, Giga Bokeria, said that “parties may have different positions on different issues, but are well aware of the dangers posed by the regime of Bidzina Ivanishvili [an oligarch who is considered the shadow ruler of Georgia]”.
The candidate for the position of mayor is Nika Melia, leader of the main opposition United National Movement party (founded by ex-President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili).
Elena Khoshtaria, a well-known politician, a former member of the European Georgia party, has been nominated for the post of chairman of the city council.
One of the members of the Girchi – More Freedom party is being considered as a candidate for the post of vice mayor.
So far, the candidates are supported by three opposition parties: United National Movement, European Georgia and Girchi – More Freedom.
Nika Melia joined the United National Movement in 2014, two years after the party was defeated in elections and ceased to be ruling. He soon became one of its main leaders.
In the parliamentary elections on October 31, 2020, he ran as a candidate from Gldani, one of the largest districts in Tbilisi. Melia is the only opposition majoritarian candidate who, according to the CEC, received more votes than the incumbent in the first round.
Nika Melia also became the first deputy to be removed twice by the parliament of two convocations at the request of the prosecutor’s office. Melia was charged with inciting violence after trying to encourage a crowd to break into the parliament building on June 20, 2019, during mass protests in Tbilisi.
Shortly after the October 31, 2020 elections, Nika Melia was arrested, and for this, special forces took the party office by storm. Following a ‘disagreement’ with the team over the arrest of Melia, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia resigned. The ruling party nominated Irakli Garibashvili to replace him.
The arrest of one of the opposition leaders provoked a negative reaction from European and American diplomats and politicians. Ambassadors and members of the US Congress expressed concern over the storming of the headquarters of the main opposition force by the Georgian authorities. Melia was released after the direct in involvement of the President of the European Council Charles Michel, including the European Union’s bail for the oppositionist.
After that, almost all opposition MPs, including the National Movement, stopped boycotting parliament.
Opposition candidates were nominated in a non-standard format – neither journalists nor guests were present.
“Whoever our candidate is, he also plays good football. As for the political game, the current mayor Kakha Kaladze lost because he did nothing for four years”, opposition spokesman Roman Gotsiridze said before the presentation.
The pun is connected with the past of the Tbilisi mayor – Kakha Kaladze who was a famous footballer and even played for the Milan club. He has already been officially nominated by the ruling Georgian Dream party as a candidate for the position of mayor of Tbilisi.
Elections to local self-government have become especially important in Georgia, as they will simultaneously play the role of a “referendum” on the most acute issue in the dispute between the authorities and the opposition: the holding of early parliamentary elections.
This is one of the main demands of the opposition, which declared the elections rigged on October 31, 2020. In April 2021, the opposition and the authorities signed an agreement mediated by the President of the European Council Charles Michel which put an end to a months-long political crisis.
One of the points of the agreement states that early parliamentary elections will be called if the ruling Georgian Dream party gets less than 43% of the vote in local elections.
The results of the parliamentary elections on October 31, 2020, according to the Central Election Commission and the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED):
|Georgian Dream||48,22 %||47,6%|
|United National Movement – Strength in Unity||27,18 %||27,4%|
|Alliance of Patriots||3,14%||3,2%|
|Citizens – Aleko Elisashvili||1,33%||1,3%|