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How will main opposition party overcome its internal crisis?

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Thursday, November 24, 2022
The United National Movement, which is the main opposition force, is facing serious internal problems. On November 9, a part of the party leaders demanded extraordinary elections of the party chairman and board, which turned out to be a surprise for the party leadership. Elections are expected to be held in December.

It is difficult to say whether the UNM will maintain its unity after this or not.

The 'hot political autumn', which some opposition leaders threatened the Georgian Dream with before going on vacation in the summer, did not happen, but the opposite did happen - the autumn actually passed 'quietly' without opposition speeches, the rating of the opposition parties is low, and the main opposition party, National Movement is actually on the verge of falling apart. Overall, the opposition cannot pose any serious threat to the ruling party anytime soon.

On November 9, a part of the National Movement members' request to hold internal elections in the party implies the election of the party's chairman, political council, and political secretariat. Chairman of the UNM Nika Melia accepted this challenge and expressed his readiness to hold intra-party elections and participate in them.

Candidates with a claim for the chairmanship of the party appeared - Giorgi Mumladze and Levan Khabeishvili. Giorgi Chaladze applied for the chairmanship of the party but soon refused. They do not rule out that other candidates for the chairmanship of the party will also appear.

The form of internal party elections, which will be held electronically, is still unclear. A 7-member commission was created to organize the elections.

Why is part of the National Movement dissatisfied with the chairmanship of Nika Melia? Giorgi Mumladze talks about the mistakes made by Nika Melia, that the new people he brought in did not justify him, he was not able to implement the right policy, and his rating is low "The party is in second place, but the approval rating of the party chairman is 15th and he is ahead of 1% parties leaders...A leader's qualities, perseverance, and actions should support the rating of the party and not the other way around - the party shouldn't have to be dragging the leader along."

The political opponents of this party and a number of experts are looking for another explanation for the controversy started in the UNM. According to them, Nika Melia has offended the old 'upper echelon' of the UNM with his actions, and Davit Kezerashvili and Vano Merabishvili are standing behind Levan Khabeishvili.

Accordingly, "there is a struggle for money and power in the party," - this is the conclusion.

The current chairman of the National Movement, Nika Melia, is going to participate in the re-election of the chairman of the party and declares that he will speak openly about a number of internal party issues, which he has refrained from making public until now.

Most likely, they will talk about Kezerashvili, with whom he does not have good relations. The parties involved in the internal party elections claim that the unity of the party should not be broken and that the party should become stronger after the elections. But if the confrontation takes the character of mutual exposure, it will be very difficult to maintain unity in the party.

In addition, the controversy within the party will certainly affect its traditional supporters and may significantly reduce support for the National Movement.

Some commentators do not see a problem in the possible reduction of the support of the main opposition party, and on the contrary, if the National Movement disappears altogether, it will be good for Georgian politics, because the Georgian Dream will no longer be able to intimidate the voters - if you do not elect me, the UNM will return to power.

The position of the real leader of the "National Movement", Mikheil Saakashvili, is not entirely clear. All the contenders for the chairmanship involved in the internal party elections act on behalf of Saakashvili and promise to do everything to release him and take him abroad for treatment. However, as people who came to see Saakashvili say, the third president considers the election controversy within the party to be untimely and does not state his position.

The internal problems of the National Movement so far only weaken the opposition and cause disappointment among the opposition voters. Statements are made that "the opposition does not have any agenda, it will not have the power to change the government."

As for the traditional theme of the unification of the pro-Western opposition, this is only in its infancy, and there are three party applications for unification. Each has a low rating and a merger is unlikely to dramatically increase their support.

Some people blame the government for the dismal state of the opposition, which manages to create divisions and, probably, bribe some opposition leaders.

At the same time, many problems have accumulated in the country, and there is a great protest charge in the society, which appeared periodically when the citizens thought that the western orientation of the country was in danger. Non-fulfillment of 12 requirements of the European Union may become the reason for a new wave.