Further divide in the main Georgian opposition party UNM: new leader excludes predecessor
Is Nika Melia a UNM member?
The former chairman of Georgia’s largest opposition party, United National Movement (UNM), Nika Melia, is no longer a party member, according to the current head of UNM, Levan Khabeishvili, as stated on “Formula” TV channel.
Nika Melia has not provided any comment on this announcement.
“It’s no longer under discussion: Melia does not represent the United National Movement”
“The UNM is gearing up to secure victory in the critical 2024 parliamentary elections for the country. On the initiative and under the idea of Mikheil Saakashvili [convicted ex-president of Georgia and founder of the party], the United National Movement has released a manifesto aimed at symbolizing party unity and outlining its fundamental principles.
Despite our extended efforts to reintegrate the former chairman into the party, Nika Melia diverges from the principles outlined in the manifesto. He continues to detrimentally impact the party and publicly asserts that he is ‘not in the National Movement.’
I state unequivocally: this individual no longer represents the United National Movement. He is no longer a member of the National Movement and cannot speak on behalf of the National Movement.
The United National Movement is transitioning into a decisive electoral mode. With Melia no longer affiliated, this matter is closed, and the party will not offer any further comment.
At the political council level, the United National Movement remains open to individuals whose aim is to contribute to success in the 2024 parliamentary elections and the triumph of the country,” Levan Khabeishvili stated.
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UNM’s Manifesto and internal divide
Levan Khabeishvili assumed the chairmanship of the United National Movement on January 30, 2023, securing 52.58 percent of the votes. Nika Melia came in second with 40 percent; the election saw the participation of 41,264 individuals.
The election was prompted by disagreements between the incumbent chairman, Nika Melia, and other team leaders. Party founder Mikheil Saakashvili called on fellow party members to unite but has not openly declared support for any candidate. Nika Melia’s team alleges that these elections were orchestrated by two party members, former defense minister Davit Kezerashvili and former interior minister Vano Merabishvili.
On November 22, the United National Movement unveiled an 11-point manifesto reflecting the party’s principles, political vision, and ideology. The party asserts that the active involvement of its founder, Mikheil Saakashvili, the leader of the Rose Revolution and “Georgian reformist president,” strengthens the party.
Notably, Nika Melia did not endorse the manifesto and was absent from the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the “Rose Revolution” hosted by the National Movement.
“Hope the party will not lose focus” – Giorgi Baramidze, member of the party’s political council
According to Giorgi Baramidze, a member of the party’s political council, he was opposed to the exclusion of Melia from the UNM. While acknowledging that, according to the party’s charter, the party chairman has the right to expel a member, Baramidze does not personally support the political expediency of such a move.
“I was and will remain a member of Mikheil Saakashvili’s team. UNM is Misha’s team. At the same time, UNM has a legally elected chairman, a political council, a general secretary, and a secretariat.
I believe that many previous fighters will return, and new ones will join us. I believe that we will not forget the main goal and will not lose focus,” Baramidze said.
Koba Nakopia, a member of the United National Movement, said “it was impossible to talk about unity under Khabeishvili’s rule.”
“[Levan Khabeishvili] excluded people from the party. He claimed that they excluded themselves, and then threatened fellow party members. His actions do not fit anywhere. After that, just a few days ago, he signed a unity manifesto. I can’t understand what the point of his actions are.”
The National Movement political party was established in 2001, with Mikheil Saakashvili, the third president of Georgia, serving as its chairman and leader until 2015. In 2003, the party played a key role in organizing the “Rose Revolution.” It held power in Georgia from 2004 to 2012.
The National Movement lost to the current ruling Georgian Dream party in the 2012 parliamentary elections, remaining in opposition since then.
In the 2020 parliamentary elections, the National Movement, along with other smaller opposition parties, formed an electoral bloc named National Movement – United Opposition “Strength in Unity.” The bloc secured 27.13 percent of the vote, representing over half a million votes.