UNM Party Gathers Thousands in Tbilisi for Final Campaign Rally

TBILISI — Thousands of supporters of Georgia’s main opposition United National Movement (UNM) party filled the capital’s Rose Revolution Square on Wednesday afternoon to take part in what the party claims was “the largest political rally held in recent years."

Held only three days ahead of crucial elections on October 8, the UNM gathering comes amid mounting friction between the opposition and the ruling Georgian Dream coalition.

The key speech of the rally was delivered by the party’s founder, former President Mikheil Saakashvili, who addressed the crowd via a video link from Ukraine’s Odessa, region where he serves as governor.

“The country should not be a toy of a single feudal lord," Saakashvili said in reference to Georgian Dream’s founder and his bitter political rival, billionaire oligarch and former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili.

In his speech, Saakashvili reaffirmed his previous statements about a possible return to the country, saying “I will come back home in only a few days to take an active part in this historic task ahead of us.” 

Saakashvili’s Dutch-born estranged wife Sandra Roelofs, who is also a UNM candidate in a single-member constituency Zugdidi, the capital of Georgia’s western Megrelia region, backed her husband’s potential return “once the judiciary is free from political pressure."

In August 2014, the Tbilisi City Court issued an arrest warrant for Saakashvili on charges of abuse of power. The UNM and its supporters dismiss the accusations saying they are part of a political witch-hunt orchestrated by the current government.

 UNM parliamentary member and Saakashvili’s staunch ally Givi Targamadze also made an appearance at the rally, less than 24 hours after a car bomb destroyed his car in central Tbilisi in an apparent assassination attempt that injured five bystanders.

Targamadze, who is wanted in Russia for his alleged role in the 2012 anti-government protests in Moscow, expressed his gratitude to the supporters and praised their bravery.

The rally was covered in symbols that reflect the current political climate in Georgia. While UNM officials were giving passionate speeches denouncing the current government, a screen facing Rose Revolution Square displayed a digitized GD campaign ad that played in the background.

With Beethoven’s Ode to Joy symphony - the official anthem of the European Union – playing as the rally concluded, a drone carrying a broom, a symbol used in the 2012 protests against abuses under Saakashvili's rule, flew above the crowd.

Saakashvili later posted a message on his Twitter account calling the gathering “a second Rose Revolution.”

By Zygimantas Kapocius

Edited by Nicholas Waller


06 October 2016 09:31