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Free Democrats, Republicans unite for local elections

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, June 1
Two non-parliamentary opposition parties, the Free Democrats and Republicans, have announced that they are merging their force for the upcoming local elections that will take place in the autumn; the president will name an exact date.

Two leaders of the party, Shalva Shavgulidze from the Free Democrats (which nearly overcame the 5% threshold in the last year’s parliamentary elections) and Khatuna Samnidze (of a party which was far from the overcoming the barrier) made their statement at a joint press conference.

They stressed that the parties’ “similar ideology” was the key reason behind the decision.

Both of the parties were in the Georgian Dream coalition founded by billionaire ex-Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili for the 2012 parliamentary elections, in which the coalition defeated the nine-year rule of the United National Movement.

The coalition split before the 2016 parliamentary elections, and the former member parties of the union participated separately in the race.

Only the main ruling party, Georgian Dream, managed to appear in the legislative body with a constitutional majority, with 116 representatives in the 150-member legislative body.

If other, former coalition member parties had managed to unite, it was very likely they also would gain seats in Parliament.

It is now being speculated that the two parties are trying to have Aleko Elisashvili, one of the most active independent MP in the Tbilisi City Council, as their Mayoral candidate in the capital city.

However, Elisashvili claims he doesn’t want to be affiliated with any political party.

However, he doesn’t exclude the possibility that the two parties will support him as an independent candidate in the race.

The European Georgia opposition has already named Elene Khoshtaria as their candidate for Tbilisi Mayor.

The local media reports that either Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze or ex-Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili may run for the post from the ruling team.

The local elections, especially the Mayoral race in Tbilisi, will be very challenging.

Social media users (and offline members of the public) are unhappy with the activities of the current Mayor, Davit Narmania, who was nominated by the current ruling team.

As it appears the ruling team candidate may have strong opponents.

If the ruling team’s nominee will not win the election in Tbilisi, it will be a signal that something has changed in the Georgian voters’ political taste.

However, the ruling force has enough levers to win the elections. As there is no one strong opponent among the opposition leaders and it is known that here in Georgia people vote for charismatic figures and not for the political platform.