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On the campaign trail, Saakashvili pledges to raise living standards

By Shorena Labadze
Tuesday, May 13
President Mikheil Saakashvili is on the trail campaigning for the parliamentary elections this month, meeting voters to promise more social care and better basic goods and services.

With his ruling National Movement party strongly positioned ahead of the May 21 elections but facing discontent with persistent poverty and what critics say is an autocratic governing style, Saakashvili is focusing on what his administration can deliver to voters if they deliver him another constitutional majority in parliament.

On May 8, Saakashvili met with teachers in a Tbilisi suburb, telling them well-equipped schools and support for education would be a priority for his administration. Those who did not agree with that priority, he suggested, did not have the country’s best interests at heart.

“We are patriots, and it’s impossible for there be issues on which patriots can’t agree,” Saakashvili said. “If Georgia doesn’t have an educated generation, Georgia won’t exist—we won’t have a future and prospects.”

Saakashvili spoke about new education programs, including school repairs and computer purchases, and pledged to help teachers make ends meet at home.

The head of the teachers’ union which organized the rally thanked the president for what she said was his administration’s support for teachers.

The union boss said the president had abolished single-year teaching contracts, extended state insurance to teachers and ensured paid holidays.

Saakashvili promised a rise to the minimum salary for teachers, and ordered the Education Minister to distribute free insurance vouchers to teachers.

The next day, Saakashvili visited an aging World War II veteran and promised support for the country’s veterans.

The next stop was in the poor rural regions of Akhaltsikhe and Aspindza, where accompanied by the energy minister he promised to connect every Georgian village to the country’s natural gas grid by the end of this year.

“Gas will get to every family,” Saakashvili vowed.