The United National Movement?
Following the elections, the opinions in the United National Movement (UNM), the major opposition party that gained 27% of votes in October 8 parliamentary elections, have divided with regard to the party’s future plans.
One part of its members, led by ex-President, Mikheil Saakashvili, believes that the party should have refused to enter the Parliament and stand in the second round of elections, in order to avoid UNM’s legitimation of the elections that were held with violations.
“Let’s leave Ivanishvili with a single-party Parliament and show the world that he is Kim Il-sung, claimed those, who supported this idea, including the most radically disposed Odessa Governor.
As for another part (including former National Security Secretary, Giga Bokeria), it claimed that giving up on the MP mandates and boycotting the second round of election would be a step towards party’s marginalization.
The confrontation moved beyond the party offices and shifted onto the social media. Some accusations against Saakashvili were voiced. Some supporters believe that it was due to Saakashvili’s radical statements, made in the campaign period, that the party lost the electorate’s votes during the elections.
“Misha said, he was coming and that the army and the police were on his side. A huge rally was held. The whole campaign turned into a single question: is he coming or not. And the Georgian Dream won, Shota Utiashvili, Deputy Interior Minister during Saakshvili’s ruling, wrote on his Facebook page.
The decision on whether the party would enter the Parliament or not was made by the majority of vote at the party’s political board meeting. Saakashvili’s proposal was turned down and it was decided not to boycott the second round of elections. However, there are still some suspicions that things are not quite OK in the UNM party and that it could distance itself from Saakashvili.
Has Saakashvili become a heavy burden for its own party and what processes are underway in the former ruling party? Here’s what experts think:
Gia Khukhashvili, an expert in politics:
The United National Movement’s immediate goal was to survive. And it has accomplished it. It could be said that it has done it by far. It increased its electorate nearly twice as compared with previous elections. What I mean is a popular legitimacy. Since the Georgian Dream is a tenuous power that even failed to normally form the party, by 2020 they will be considerably thinned out and weak and in such circumstances, the UNM, which by that time would be already ‘purged of its old sins’, will stand pretty good chances to come into power.
As far as split is concerned, I can’t see any serious signs of it at this stage. The party needs Mikheil Saakashvili, since 80% of its electorate today actually support Saakshvili. And Saakashvili also needs the National Movement, because he has rather infirm positions in Ukraine.
At this stage, the National Movement inclines to the so-called ‘Bokeria’s scenario’, which is more forward-looking.
There are no revolutionary moods in the society. Consequently, it will be very artificial and risky for the party’s future to initiate a crisis that Saakashvili aspires for.
Gia Nodia, the Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development:
The National Movement’s political future, in general, depends, first of all, on how well it will show its moral and intellectual advantages over other forces, foremost, over the authorities. These days it has once again proved that it has such advantage – unlike the Georgian Dream, it doesn’t depend on a single person’s will, but rather on what the party members will decide. It’s a serious advantage.
It will be a bigger mistake on part of the UNM to distance itself from Mikheil Saakashvili. Similarly, it will Saakashvili’s human mistake if he decides to disassociate himself from the party. Mikheil Saakashvili is the National Movement founder and even now, it’s he, who largely determines the party’s brand. The majority may not like the fact that Georgian politics is overly personalistic, but that’s what it is at this stage.
However, it doesn’t mean that he should be the ‘Fuhrer’, whose single word would make his party spring to attention. His strength as a politician lies, first and foremost, in the team that he set up. Whereas the strength of this team could be also measured by the independent-minded people that it comprises.
As for the fact that it is incompatible to be Odessa Governor and, at the same time, to manage the party activity. Yes, it’s true. Otherwise there will give rise to some legal, political and logistical problems. An attempt to assume both functions will affect Saakashvili’s activity in Ukraine, as well as will challenge his political future in Georgia. However, recognition of the aforesaid in no way implies disassociation from Saakashvili.