Georgia's main opposition party, the United National Movement (UNM), again appears to be heading for a split into two groups, one of which unequivocally supports its founder, former President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, while the other group is in favor of distancing him from the party leadership, providing his Ukrainian citizenship as the main reason.
Problems in main opposition party
By Tea Mariamidze
Thursday, December 8
The confrontation among the UNM members became open ahead of next month’s large-scale congress, which will gather around 7,000 UNM delegates.
One wing of the UNM thinks they should elect Davit Bakradze as the party's new chairman, who headed the UNM faction in the last parliament, while the second group insists that the UNM should not elect a new chairman, and that Saakashvili should remain its informal leader.
The former President of Georgia and now the ex-Governor of Ukraine’s Odessa Region, Saakashvili was formally removed as the UNM chairman in December 2015 after he acquired Ukrainian citizenship and was stripped of Georgian nationality.
UNM member Otar Kakhidze, who is in favor of refreshing the party leadership, confirms that the party is split into two wings.
In a Facebook post, Kakhidze explains that there is a real political confrontation inside the party, saying the pro-Saakashvili team wants to gain power to rule the party.
“Their aim is the same as ours – the replacement of the government - but they want to achieve it without electing a chairman. They are saying that Saakashvili will be isolated from the party if he is not elected to the chairman’s post again,” he said.
Kakhidze explains that the election of a new Chair does not mean Saakashvili’s isolation from the team. He attributed himself to the second wing of the UNM, which is led by Giga Bokeria, who says that if the party leadership is not replaced, the UNM will not be able to defeat founder of the ruling party Georgian Dream and tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili.
“Instead of gossiping, we should argue about the problematic issues within the party and whether to leave the Chairman’s post vacant or not,” Kakhidze’s Facebook post reads.
Pro-Saakashvili wing representative Akaki Minashvili responded to Kakidze’s post, saying the party would not fall apart and would continue fighting against Ivanishvili.
“Election of a new Chairman is unprofitable and wrong step of distancing Saakashvili. Majority of our supporters are united around him and the hope of defeating Ivanishvili is also associated with Saakashvili,” Minashvili wrote on Facebook.
Another UNM member, Khatuna Ochiauri, denies there are any 'wings' of separated groups within the party.
“There are no groups within the UNM. If this information was true, I would admit it,” she stated.
This is not the first time the UNM members openly contradict each-other, some of them even say this is a part of the democracy inside the party. However, all UNM members agree they will obey the decision of a large-scale congress, to be held on January 20, whether the final decision is favorable or not for them.