Georgia's opposition United National Movement party returns to parliament
Georgia’s largest opposition party, the United National Movement, has entered the parliament after a six-month boycott but still refuses to sign the EU-brokered agreement.
During the October 31 Parliamentary Elections of last year, the United National Movement party won 27.18% of the vote and 36 seats in the parliament of the 10th convocation.
Since April 27, almost all opposition forces in Georgia have ended the boycott of their mandates in parliament, which was announced after the parliamentary elections in October 2020. The united opposition considers those elections to be rigged and demands the repeat ones to be held.
The demands also included the release of two detained opposition figures – Giorgi Rurua, a shareholder of the leading opposition-minded Mtavari TV channel, and Niki Melia, leader of the United National Movement party.
The acute political crisis lasted for several months and was ended by the active mediation efforts of Charles Michel, President of the European Council. On April 19, representatives of the ruling party and most of the opposition signed the EU-proposed agreement which contains a step-by-step plan to resolve Georgia’s political crisis.
The detained politicians were released at the end of April, and the decision on whether or not to hold early parliamentary elections will be made based on the results of local elections of the fall of 2021.
The United National Movement (founded by former President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili) refused to sign the agreement, although some or former members of the party added their signatures to it. The party now explains its refusal to join the agreement citing the amnesty clause for its leader Niki Melia as the main obstacle: “Amnesty means an admission of his guilt, while in fact, he was a political prisoner”, the party representatives have stated epeatedly.
“But we will be fully involved in making decisions on legislative issues. We are not going to resign and will fight against Bidzina Ivanishvili [billionaire, former prime minister and former head of the ruling Georgian Dream party, who is considered the de facto ruler of Georgia]”, said the leader of the party Nika Melia.
“We will fight him everywhere – in parliament, in government, on city streets, in villages, in bars. The oligarchy of Bidzina Ivanishvili must end this year”, Melia added.
He believes that the opposition needs to show unity and work together for common goals.
Gubaz Sanikidze, MP from the National Movement – Strength in Unity Alliance, says the party’s decision to enter parliament is a tactical decision, but their strategy remains the same – to change the government.
“Now there is a specific mechanism – as per the agreement signed by the opposition and the authorities, early parliamentary elections can be announced if the ruling party receives less than 43% of the proportional votes in the upcoming local elections. There is a real chance of that, but coordinated work of the entire opposition and society is needed. Therefore, we made a decision to enter the parliament”, Sanikidze said.
Georgian Dream commented on UNM’s decision on Twitter:
- Georgian opposition leader Nika Melia released from prison after EU posts bail
- The President of Georgia pardoned the oppositionist. This is part of the agreement with the opposition
On April 30, Mikheil Saakashvili called on the United National Movement to sign an agreement with the authorities, as Nika Melia was released from prison.