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Specific plan for holding opposition primary presented

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, December 28
At Hotel Betsy on December 25 the Movement for Fair Georgia, Conservative and People’s parties held a joint presentation of their plan to conduct a primary election. They stated that an organising committee is being formed to conduct the primary and appealed to all opposition parties to participate in it.

It was frequently stated during the meeting that only a joint opposition candidate can win the Tbilisi Mayoral elections. Zviad Dzidziguri, leader of Conservative Party, said that the importance of primary elections has become clearer since the Government confirmed it will impose a 30% threshold instead of 50% for those elections. "The 30% threshold suits the Government, and if the opposition parties cannot agree on a common strategy we will be defeated as our votes will be divided between different candidates," he said. Dzidziguri added that the plan being presented was not the final version. "This project is not the final version and we need the assistance of all opposition parties in developing it further. Their attitudes will also be taken into consideration when forming the organising committee, as there is no time for cynical and destructive approaches to the primaries, all parties should put aside their own interests and think about the common goal,” Dzidziguri stated.

Collaboration between the three organising parties and other non-Parliamentary and Parliamentary opposition groups on this matter seems quite unlikely at this stage, as some are not interested in taking part in primaries. The Democratic Movement- United Georgia’s leader Nino Burjanadze has said that, "when there are no free media, court and police in the country talking about free elections is a bit unreal. We will participate neither in primaries nor in the Mayoral elections.” The Alliance for Georgia has also expressed scepticism about the usefulness of holding a primary. Its leader Irakli Alasania has said that the most significant issue at present is improving the electoral environment. "I am ready to cooperate with other opposition parties to improve the electoral environment in the country. As for holding preliminary elections or primaries among the opposition parties to select a single candidate for the Tbilisi Mayoral race, I see no resources for appropriately doing this.” Fellow Alliance representative Zurab Abashidze gave more concrete form to Alasania's comments by pointing out that the divergences within the opposition make reaching agreement on even simple issues quite difficult. "There is some danger that the primaries will be used by the Government to serve its own interests through falsification,” Abashidze stated.

Possible Government influence on primary elections was also mentioned in a statement by the Christian Democratic Movement’s Levan Vephkhvadze, who said that the three party group's suggestion about participating in primaries was a bit surprising for Movement members because Conservative Kakha Kukava has accused the Christian Democrats of collaborating with the Government. "If we are collaborators, why does the three party group suggest we participate in a primary? If we decide to participate, we will demand from the non-Parliament opposition guarantees that the Government will not influence the primary election process,” Vephkhvadze said.

The Government has stated that it is not afraid of a common opposition candidate. "I will be happy with any political decision the opposition makes apart from erecting cells and camps and holding street rallies. If even some of the opposition participate in the Tbilisi Mayoral and City Council elections this will be positive for the country,” said Parliament Speaker Davit Bakradze.