Unity & Conflict: Vashadze to Stand as Presidential Candidate


After almost a year-long break, a new election marathon is ready to start. This year, for the last time, the voters will be electing the President of Georgia, as, according to the Constitution, the future presidents of the country will be elected by Parliament rather than the people. The new political agenda suggests an even more limited authority for the President, who will have responsibilities as shallow as that of a marriage registrar. Despite this, both the government and the political opposition are excited and are preparing for the upcoming autumn battles.

The main oppositional force announced its candidate in the garden of the Bagrati Cathedral in Kutaisi. It seems Mikheil Saakashvili was able to get his idea through of uniting the oppositional front around the National Movement: the new political coalition, called Power in Unity, has nominated the former Foreign Affairs Minister Grigol Vashadze. The younger Vashadze has thus given up his presidential ambitions and the chief commander’s mantle in favor of the old, by which we are referring to Giorgi Vashadze, leader of the political party New Georgia, whose past is connected with Mikheil Saakashvili and the UNM, like that of the many others.

If not reconciliation then definitely an agreement has been reached between the UNM and the newer political party that stemmed out of it, European Georgia. In Brussels, Giorgi Baramidze and Giga Bokeria have publicly vowed to criticize Georgian Dream, consolidate election resources, not scold each other and most importantly to bring their respective electorate all the way to the ballot boxes. In a second round, they will unify their forces and vote for the oppositional candidate with the motto “All Against the Governmental Candidate.”

At first glance, there’s nothing new in this agreement, with the leader of European Georgia, Gigi Ugulava, already having proposed this very formula to Mikheil Saakashvili at the time when the refugee ex-president invited him and other party leaders to a “Last Supper” in Amsterdam. But in fact, it really is a novelty and seems to be the moving force behind a real agreement. According to the Brussels agreement, the parties agreed to unify their resources, first of all financial, mostly meaning the one that was taken from the UNM when the European Georgia left it. This means that the election finances were bargained for a candidate passing into a second round, which European Georgia believes will be their candidate rather than that of the UNM, so not Grigol Vashadze in this case.

Apparently, Mikheil Saakashvili has different plans and is thinking of starting an early campaign with the financial resources gained through this agreement. Promoting the former Foreign Affairs Minister does require substantial financial resources, but since Grigol Vashadze keeps the “oiled colt” in his pocket, that is Rustavi 2, it is hard to doubt the capabilities of this particular presidential candidate. Who will be competing against him from the governmental party, then? The answer to this question is still unclear: we neither know if the current President Giorgi Margvelashvili plans to take part, or what the now-resigned Premier Kvirikashvili and his political future might be.

What we all know for sure is that the candidate from the Labor Party will be Shalva Natelashvili and Nino Burjanadze from Democratic Georgia will fight for the post, the votes of both altogether unlikely to exceed 6%. That leaves a good 94% to fight for.

By Zaza Jgarkava

19 July 2018 19:15