Non-Parliamentary Opposition Discussing Possibility of Joint Presidential Candidate

Non-Parliamentary opposition parties have confirmed that discussions on fielding a joint presidential candidate in October 2018 are underway.  

The announcement came in the wake of former President Saakashvili’s calls for “a wider opposition front,” and suggestions that opposition primaries should take place before the upcoming elections. 

“A single-party candidate will not be effective, I am convinced,” Saakashvili, honorary chairman of the opposition United National Movement party, told Rustavi 2 TV on February 10.

Deputy Head of UNM political council Zaza Bibilashvili reiterated the stance the following day, stating that “political fragmentation” would only serve the interests of former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, and that it was in the interests of Georgian society to have opposition unity “under the principle of all against Ivanishvili”.  

Paata Davitaia, Chairman of the European Democrats part and Executive Secretary of the Council of Leaders (an informal cooperation format that unites fourteen non-parliamentary opposition parties), told that the Council of Leaders “open for all parties,” and “would only welcome UNM’s involvement to process”, while acknowledging that talks on choosing a single candidate had been ongoing for three months now.  

“Several candidates have been named, including Shalva Natelashvili of the Labor Party, as well as Nino Burjanadze (of the Democratic Movement), who might also run; we will discuss their candidatures, and possibly of those who are not [political party leaders]; I do not rule out that we might also discuss the candidacy of the incumbent president, but it all depends on his actions,” said Davitaia.

He added that UNM had not been in touch with the Council before or after Saakashvili’s appeal.

However, the European Georgia party, which broke from UNM at the start of 2017, did share the same optimism about Saakashvili’s proposal. One of their leaders, Giga Bokeria, told Rustavi 2 TV that the former President’s remarks were “contradictory”, adding that “Pro-western opposition should cooperate, but such cooperation should not be centered on Saakashvili”. 

Two opposition party leaders have already announced their running in the October elections: the Labor Party’s Shalva Natelashvili and UNM’s Nino Burjanadze. 

President Giorgia Margvelashvili, speaking briefly about his election plans at the start of this month, said that he had yet to make up his mind, and had not held any discussions with the opposition either. 

“It is understandable that I could be a very interesting partner for the opposition, [but] whether the opposition parties, with all their differences, their positions, and their prior political activities, are [politically] interesting for me, we can discuss in detail a little later,” Margvelashvili said.

By Máté Földi 

13 February 2018 11:29