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Main opposition party ready for large-scale assembly

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, December 2
Late on November 30, Georgia’s main opposition party, the United National Movement, which has 27 seats in the 150-member legislative body, held a meeting of its political council.

The meeting came shortly after Georgia’s ex-President, Mikheil Saakashvili (now a citizen of Ukraine), appealed to members of the party to hold a large-scale assembly of its delegates to demonstrate unity, strength and readiness to fight against the “real ruler of the country”, referring to the billionaire founder of the current ruling Georgian Dream party, Bidzina Ivansihvili.

“Misha’s [Mikheil Saakashvili] team won,” wrote one of the UNM members Chiora Taktakishvili shortly after the council meeting on her Facebook page, saying that out of the 50 members of the UNM political council, 25 voted for the large-scale assembly with 7,000 party delegates, while one refrained from voting with 24 voting against.

The part of the UNM believed the party should have held an assembly of its 2,158 delegates and elect new leadership for the party, which had ran Georgia for nine years between 2003 and 2012.

They believed that Saakashvili, who was involved in politics abroad, and other UNM leaders who were arrested under the Georgian Dream leadership, couldn’t fulfil their obligations appropriately.

Giga Bokeria from the UNM stated it would be better for the UNM to elect the ex-Parliament Speaker and number one in the UNM party list for last month’s parliamentary elections, David Bakradze, as its new leader.

However, voting within the political council of the UNM revealed the position for the UNM's leader remained vacant.

Prior to the council meeting, several members of the UNM released a joint statement, saying “distancing ourselves from Saakashvili would be equal to committing political suicide”.

The UNM members stated that the assembly would allegedly discuss the fate of the new leader, elect members for the new political council of the UNM and confirm the party line.

Analysts have discussed the controversy inside the UNM at length, as the party has previously never been so divided; half of the UNM's members - especially the younger faces - are trying to free the party from Saakashvili’s influences, while others maintain that the party will be nothing without the former President.

However, despite the divide, they claim that the ex-President's influence over the party still remains quite strong.