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Opposition disagree on how to unite

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, February 17
The opposition parties which will not take part in the opposition primary are still interested in selecting a common candidate for Tbilisi Mayor. However the Parliamentary opposition has called other parties’ method of choosing a common candidate unrealistic.

“It is natural that we should stand as one united body at these elections. Victory is inevitable if that happens. We are holding negotiations to establish that unity, and there are various other ways through which unity can be reached apart from the opposition primaries,” Irakli Alasania, leader of the Alliance for Georgia, said on February 16. He did not specify who he is negotiating with, but said everything will become clear in the near future. "Give us time and we’ll present our formula for uniting the opposition. We will be ready to discuss the issue of a common candidate only after certain steps have been taken,” Alasania said.

The Conservative Party, initiator of the primary along with the People’s Party and the Movement for Fair Georgia, has responded to this statement. "The opposition primary is the only way to select a single candidate for the Tbilisi Mayoral elections, and all other attempts, through negotiations and so on, will have no affect. Choosing the common candidate by means of negotiations would mean that some candidates would have to stand down in favour of another, which is not the right way to decide who the candidate should be. The common candidate should be identified by election,” Conservative leader Kakha Kukava said. Former Presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze, now leader of Defend Georgia, added, "unification of the opposition is necessary. Any candidate may become the united opposition leader, and an agreement on a united candidate is necessary. I have repeatedly said that unification is the only way to defeat the Government."

The Parliamentary opposition Christian Democrats says that it cannot see how the opposition will unite. "I think it is unrealistic that the Alliance for Georgia and the Movement for Fair Georgia led by Zurab Noghaideli, might have a common candidate for Tbilisi Mayor, as their political attitudes are very different. Our party also finds it unimaginable that we would achieve agreement with a political force whose leader shakes hands with the enemy of Georgia,” Levan Vephkhvadze stated, adding that opposition unification had been achievable six months ago but the disruption of negotiations then was the fault of the opposition parties which nominated candidates for Mayor before they were concluded. "When you are talking about unification and a united candidate you do not name your candidate in advance,” Vephkhvadze said. Paata Davitaia stated that it will be very difficult to defeat the Government’s candidate, Gigi Ugulava, if the opposition have several candidates for the post. Industry Will Save Georgia's Zurab Tkemaladze said he would welcome opposition unification only if the common candidate for Tbilisi Mayor is Gogi Topadze, the leader of his party.

Analysts take different positions on the prospects of opposition unification. Soso Tsintsadze says that Irakli Alasania is the real opponent of Gigi Ugulava in the Tbilisi Mayoral elections. "If the opposition unify around Alasania as their common candidate, Ugulava will have a serious opponent. Agreeing on a common candidate would be a most serious and sensible step from the opposition,” Tsintsadze stated. Gia Khukhashvili has told The Messenger that "it is unimaginable for me how, for example, the Alliance for Georgia and Zurab Noghaideli’s party might agree a common candidate. Uniting just to defeat one particular candidate is a negative action, also unacceptable for me. If some opposition parties manage to unite around several candidates this would be better for the opposition. At present the Government's tactics are proving very profitable; it is doing its best to gain votes, but even if the Government manages to win the local elections it will not be a winner at all because of the serious internal and especially external problems the country is now facing,” Khukhashvili said.

Government representative Nugzar Tsiklauri has also given his view of the opposition to The Messenger. "There are so many different viewpoints in the opposition parties; I do not think they will manage to unite. There are people in the opposition with a pro-Russian orientation, while others express the desire to enter NATO. Even if the opposition achieve some kind of unification, the Georgian Government and its candidate will be oriented only on solving problems and helping people, unlike the opposition, which is always trying to raise its rating just by saying something bad about the Government. I am sure that Tbilisi citizens will see through this and make the right decision,” Tsiklauri said.