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Political Fireworks in Tbilisi City Hall

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, October 31
Zurab Abashidze and Viktor Dolidze, representatives of opposition party Our Georgia – Free Democrats were removed from their key positions at the City Council (Sakrebulo) on October 28. Abashidze, Deputy Chairman of the Tbilisi City Council and Dolidze, Chairman of the City Health Care and Social Issues Commission, were accused by the ruling party of neglecting their responsibilities. Members of the opposition party, headed by Irakli Alasania--who has political ties with businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili--called the United National Movement’s decision as "Communism and political retaliation".

“What happened today is part of President Mikheil Saakashvili’s dangerous Bolshevik policy,” Viktor Dolidze said in anger. Promising to continue their activities in earnest as ordinary members of the City Council, Dolidze stressed that in one year the "virtual Soviet flag" hanging above the Council would be gone. Having received no information from the authorities on the causes for the decision to remove them, Zurab Abashidze accused the ruling party of a political witch-hunt against the Free Democrats. “Unlike the ruling party MPs, Viktor Dolidze and I have met thousands of citizens and solved their problems within the framework of our mandates,” Abashidze stated.

Claiming that the opposition party members had not met their obligations properly, the UNM MPs made a unanimous decision to remove these persons from their positions. As Niko Khachirashvili, Chairman of the UNM faction stated, the ruling party made the decision long ago, but didn’t have an opportunity to carry it out. “We think that the Deputy Chairman of the City Council and the Chairman of Health Care and Social Issues Commission should use their mandates to solve Tbilisi citizens' problems and not for satisfying their vague political aims,” he stated.

Criticizing the Council members of the opposition for failing to perform their duties, Khachirashvili denied any personal motivation for removing these chairmen and "hoped to continue cooperation within the City Council". Expressing their discontent towards the UNM’s decision, other opposition representatives also protested and stressed that they hadn’t heard any plausible arguments for withdrawing Abashidze and Dolidze. Opposition party members left the bureau meeting in protest.

Abashidze and Dolidze were elected to the City Council positions in local elections in May 2010. In the framework of a deal between the opposition and ruling party, the majority agreed to allocate several posts to opposition members. “The opposition representatives, Zurab Abashidze and Viktor Dolidze had leading political positions at the City Council but they couldn’t meet their responsibilities,” UNM member Koki Ionatamishvili told the media. He is Chairman of the Economic Development and International Relations Committee. Emphasizing the importance of the positions that the two persons occupied for more than a year, UNM members stated that Abashidze and Dolidze were ineffective in carrying out policies.

Mamuka Akhvlediani, First Deputy Chairman of the City Council also claimed that Abashidze and Doklidze had been using their positions for “satisfying their political ambitions”, not serving people’s interests. The ruling party members criticized the colleagues for holding street meetings on social problems.

Most people think that the UNM’s decision to remove two Free Democrat members from the leading positions at the City Council was caused by Bidzina Ivanishvili’s appearance on the political stage. But as Zurab Abashidze told The Messenger both he and Viktor Dolidze had been actively discussing people’s problems within the City Council and out of office which irritated the UNM. “Using our positions as a lever we talked with people and helped them solve their problems involving garbage collection, increased transport costs, healthcare and other social issues. We will continue supporting our fellow citizens by struggling against the current regime,” Abashidze told us.