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All Minus One causes confrontation within opposition

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, February 23
Little time is left before the local government elections in Georgia. The major contest will be the Tbilisi Mayoral elections. Ruling party candidate Gigi Ugulava began his campaign long ago, however the opposition is still thinking about whether to run a joint candidate. Many think that if it fails to unite the opposition will lose this election.

On February 15 one of the most popular and highly-rated opposition leaders, Irakli Alasania of the Alliance for Georgia, raised the issue of unification during a meeting with civil society groups. On February 17 fellow Alliance leaders Davit Gamkrelidze and Davit Usupashvili stated at a briefing that the Alliance for Georgia is suggesting that the opposition unite under the formula 'All Minus One', the one being Zurab Noghaideli’s party, the Movement for Fair Georgia.

The Alliance for Georgia was the first party to declare a candidate for Tbilisi Mayor. It suggested that the opposition unite around the strongest possible contender, who they say is Alasania. However some opposition parties have said that they want to hold a primary election in order to identify the most popular candidate.

According to the latest polls Gigi Ugulava is 10-12% ahead of Alasania. Some analysts say that Alasania's February 15 statement can be understood as a signal that he is ready to compromise and support another common candidate. Analysts do not exclude that this candidate might be Levan Gachechiladze, the main opposition candidate for President last time round.

The All Minus One formula has been rejected by the Conservatives. Their leader Kakha Kukava says that the 'minus one' should be Saakashvili. Noghaideli agrees, saying that the Alliance's Davit Gamkrelidze was the first person to ask him to take part in the primary, and only later did the Conservatives also invite him.

Alliance leaders explain their stance towards Noghaideli by expressing dissatisfaction with his frequent visits to Moscow. They say that Noghaideli has a very unclear role in Georgian politics and a criminal past, and the Alliance is not going to hold negotiations with such people. They think that Noghaideli’s visits to Moscow can only damage Georgia’s interests.

Some opposition parties are sure that Noghaideli’s actions are an attempt by Saakashvili to split the opposition. “I am pretty sure that this is a preplanned scheme,” says Defend Georgia's Goga Khaindrava. “Saakashvili is trying to create two images, one that he is a Western oriented figure and the second that Noghaideli has joined the opposition, as this gives Saakashvili an opportunity to use his propaganda machine against the opposition,” Khaindrava says.

Before the elections the opposition once again seems to be split. Some parties do not plan to take part in the elections at all. However a positive opposition programme, supported by the public, which will create an alternative to National Movement rule is still lacking.