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United National Movement: Rebirth or Death?

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, April 22
The United National Movement held a rally on Rustaveli Avenue on April 19. The main message of the rally was that the United National Movement has changed into a party that would not repeat old mistakes. The ruling force is skeptical concerning this “rebirth” and claims that neither the old or renewed version of UNM has a chance at success.

According to the members of the UNM, more than 12, 000 individuals attended the meeting. According to Associated Press there were 10, 000 men, based on Google 4, 000- 5, 000. Representatives of the coalition Georgian Dream claimed that there were at least 5, 000- 7, 000 citizens.

“Freedom of Georgian statehood, private and economic independence and the new vision of Georgia’s role and abilities in the world” were named as the targets of the renewed UNM party.

UNM MP Giorgi Vashadze, who acted as a presenter at the rally, said that the UNM would launch an active campaign, including in the provinces, to deliver in each and every family the UNM’s new message.

In their speeches, the UNM representatives often repeated the message of “renewal”, saying that the party was now “unlike” what it was previously, with gained experience based on lessons learned from its old mistakes.

UNM MP, Davit Bakradze, emphasized that the “rumors regarding the death of the UNM are far from reality and that people should support the renewed UNM, as it is already a new experienced and patriotic party."

General Secretary of the UNM, Vano Merabishvili, also touched upon the past mistakes, emphasizing that the UNM managed to create a new country; however, it failed to solve the unemployment problem.

“If the new government does not settle the problem, we will replace them,” Merabishvili claimed.

Tbilisi Mayor, Gogi Ugulava spoke on “positive sides of the UNM's defeat in the elections” and underscored that the loss revealed “unfaithful people” within the UNM team.

Certain members of the GD claimed that if the people gathered at Freedom Square reflect the total number of the UNM supporters, then the party is already dead.

A different statement was made by the Parliament Chair, Davit Usupashvili, who stated that “survival” of the UNM and “keeping the former ruling party within the political spectrum is the aim of the Georgian democracy.”

Usupashvili underscored that the individual members of the previous government should face justice for their criminal actions. “But I wish its [UNM’s] healthy part to survive unharmed from this process,” Usupashvili said.

According to US ambassador to Georgia, Richard Norland, the April 19 rally was a sign of democracy. “People gathered peacefully and expressed their attitude without violence… it is a normal, casual event.”

Head of Elections and Political Technologies Research Centre, Kakha Kakhishvili, claims that the meeting and the recent ongoing issues proved that there is inner confrontation inside the UNM and after the Presidential elections the process will go deeper.

According to political analyst, Ramaz Sakvarelidze, the rally revealed only one thing.

“Nothing is changed in the title of the party, there are no new faces in the party and the only news is that the number of supporters of the UNM has decreased,” Sakvarelidze said.

According to a representative from the NGO GRASS, Elene Khoshtaria, the rally revealed that the UNM has supporters and that the government could ensure security. "The UNM should carry out the process of renewal in reality and the government should respect a strong opposition,” she said.