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There will be no primary after all

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, March 2
The parties seeking to organise a primary election to identify the common opposition candidate for Mayor of Tbilisi have now given up this idea. They stated at the People's Party office on March 1 that they will now conduct a public opinion poll to identify the candidate, as previously suggested by the Alliance for Georgia. “We have once again taken a step forward for the good of the opposition as a whole and now we are waiting for the other non-Parliamentary opposition leaders to respond,” Koba Davitashvili, leader of the People’s Party, announced.

The statement outlining the new position was signed by the Conservatives, Party Mamulishvili, Party of the Future, Movement for Fair Georgia, Christian Georgia and the People’s Party. It contains three main points: 1. All the signatories agree that the common opposition candidate for Tbilisi Mayor is to be revealed by means of opinion polls, conducted by the parties themselves, and adopted in the second half of April, 2. The signatories are ready to discuss all suggestions concerning these polls, from all interested sides, until March 7, 2010, at which point the rules for conducting the polls will be adopted by the parties who wanted to hold a primary, and 3. The signatories will not take part in Government provocations designed to split the opposition and will thus refuse to criticise any of the non-Parliamentary opposition parties until the elections.

Davitashvili said that the apparent union between all opposition forces at the meeting at the Chess Palace on February 24, at which Irakli Alasania agreed to be part of the process of selecting a common candidate after previously refusing to, was so sudden and unacceptable for the Government that it has done its best to launch propaganda against the idea of single candidate through its media outlets and present the opposition as enemies of the state. The particular target of this propaganda, Zurab Noghaideli of the Movement for Fair Georgia, stated that "All that the Government has said about my activities and 'anti-Georgian behaviour' has been said simply to prevent opposition unification. As for the rumours that I am financing some opposition parties and funding the primary, why should I, when I am not taking part in the Tbilisi Mayoral elections? I am just collaborating with the opposition parties and support the idea of a common candidate,” Noghaideli said.

Asked by The Messenger which political leaders will take part in the polling and which research institutions will be involved, leader of the Conservative Party Zviad Dzidzuguri said that "All the political leaders, who have declared their candidacy for Tbilisi Mayor will take part, but we have not yet agreed which organisation will conduct the polls, we will discuss this issue together and then decide,” Dzidziguri stated.

The leaders gathered at the People’s Party office did not make any critical statement about Alliance for Georgia leader Irakli Alasania’s 28 February refusal to participate in the opposition primary but expressed the hope that this new suggestion will be acceptable for the Alliance, as it was initially the Alliance's idea. However Manana Nachkebia from the New Rights, part of the Alliance for Georgia, has told The Messenger that the Alliance will not take part in conducting the opinion polls. "As Irakli Alasania stated on February 28, we will not take part in a primary. Nor will we take part in an opinion poll. We have a leader, Alasania, who has the highest rating of any opposition leaders and is able to defeat the Government candidate. As for general collaboration, we are ready to collaborate on different issues with all opposition parties but Noghaideli's,” Nachkebia said.

Government members and Political analysts have also commented on the latest opposition scheme. Ruling party MP Nugzar Tsiklauri told The Messenger that "The latest developments in the opposition are a clear sign that they have no fixed opinions or priorities. What is the Government guilty of if opposition leaders change their decisions several times a week? Unlike the opposition, the Government has unchangeable priorities and plans.” Analyst Gia Khukhashvili told The Messenger that both primaries and opinion polls are meaningless when there is no common ideology in the opposition. "It is pointless for pro- and anti-Russian politicians to stand in the same primary or organise the same opinion poll. I cannot imagine that Alasania’s Alliance will accept a candidate supported by Noghaideli, if he wins the primary, for example. Politicians will not abandon their ideology just for the sale of a spurious unity. Holding primaries or opinion polls will be useful only if the candidate they select comes from an opposition united around the same ideology,” Khukhashvili stated. Fellow analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili said that the position of those parties which are not taking part in the elections will be very significant. "The situation will remain unclear until all the leaders give a final decision concerning the common candidate, as Alasania did. The position of those parties which have refused to take part in the Tbilisi elections is also significant, as they will still care about how the elections are conducted and be affected by them," Tsiskarishvili said.

The statement signed on March 1 will be kept in the Conservatives' office and all non-Parliamentary opposition parties who want to take part in conducting the opinion poll will be able to add their own signatures until March 7.