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An opposition divided worries it may not stand strong

By Shorena Labadze
Wednesday, May 21
A handful of candidates for parliament have quit and endorsed stronger colleagues in a half-hearted attempt to coordinate their challenge to the government in today’s elections.

Half of the seats in today’s parliamentary election will be elected from single-representative districts, a system arguably stacked against the country’s fractious opposition groups.

Because a top contender in the local districts needs just 30 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff against the next best-performing candidate, the scattered opposition field risks self-defeat by splitting the vote in otherwise competitive districts. But despite a few last minute withdrawals—mostly by long-shot bids—there was no serious apparent effort to consolidate candidates across the map.

The Rightist Alliance’s candidate in Kutaisi said he was withdrawing from the race two weeks ago, citing political intimidation, and threw his support behind the United Opposition’s candidate.

Last week, the moderate Republican Party withdrew its candidate in the western district of Abasha, endorsing the United Opposition’s Konstantin Gamsakhurdia, son of Georgia’s first president.

Republican leader Davit Usupashvili told the paper he hoped the United Opposition would reciprocate in other districts.

But the action failed to prompt extensive collaboration amid the opposition. In the following days a long-shot candidate in a Tbilisi district withdrew, as did a Labor candidate in a competitive western district, three marginal politicians in the capital and three viable candidates in eastern Lagodekhi district, who all backed the Rightist Alliance’s candidate.

The endorsements stopped there.

The withdrawn Tbilisi candidate, Gocha Jojua, said he was being “realistic” in quitting the race.

“This government must not win. The opposition has dissipated [its strength] by running in the elections separately,” he said.