|Davit Usupashvili, the new leader of the Republicans.|
Davit Usupashvili, a long-time civil society leader and respected legal expert has now become a political leader. On June 27 he was elected the chairman of the opposition Republican Party, replacing its long-time leader Davit Berdzenishvili. Political analysts say Usupashvili is a significant reinforcement for the party, which has never been into power, but always boasted dedicated members and intellectual capabilities.
“In a short-term period we will seek to succeed in MP by-elections. And in a long-term period our goal is coming to power. A presidential election is not our political target, as we advocate for the parliamentary republic,” Davit Usupashvili told Civil Georgia.
The Republican Party, which was established back in 1978 by intellectual-dissidents carries a birthmark of weak party organization and an asset of high intellectual capabilities institutions. The new leader says his charge is to rectify the weakness, and retain the assets. “[Developing the party infrastructure] is my top immediate goal. The organizational structure fails to respond to the current needs, including those appeals from numerous people willing to join us in the different parts of Georgia,” Davit Usupashvili said.
He said that this process will take at least a year. “Meanwhile, there are MP by-elections, which will be held in five single-mandate constituencies. We hope to endorse several our members to the Parliament through these elections. We plan to closely cooperate with other opposition parties during these elections,” Usupashvili said.
In these upcoming by-elections, to be held this year, the Republicans pin their hopes mainly on three single-mandate constituencies of Adjara Autonomous Republic, where the party enjoys higher support than in other parts of the country. The party activists have played a crucial role in organizing peace protests in Adjara last year, which led to ouster of ex-Adjarian leader Aslan Abashidze.
The party has not yet made a final decision on its nominees for these by-elections. “I definitely will not run,” Usupashvili said. But there are speculations that Tina Khidasheli, who has just recently joined the Republican Party, might be nominated as MP candidate for Isani single-mandate constituency in Tbilisi.
Khidasheli, who is the wife of Davit Usupashvili, is another ‘heavyweight’ arrival in the party. She is an influential civil society leader, was the long-time chairperson of the advocacy NGO Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association and now chairs of the executive board of the Open Society– Georgia Foundation.
Another recent significant gain for the party includes two non-partisan MPs – Lasha Natsvlishvili, who is elected in eastern Georgian single-mandate constituency of Lagodekhi and Valery Gelashvili, who is elected in central Georgian single-mandate constituency of Khashuri. Natsvlishvili is a former Deputy Security Minister and Gelashvili a wealthy businessman.
“Certainly my support to the party will be reflected in my financial contribution as well,” MP Valery Gelashvili told Civil Georgia on June 27.
As a result of this recent gains, the number of Republican legislators in the Georgian Parliament has increased from four to six. But the party falls short of four parliamentarians to forming an official faction in the legislative body.
The Republican Party members entered the Parliament through the party-list of the ruling National Movement party during the March 2004 parliamentary elections. The Republican Party has joined Mikheil Saakashvili’s National Movement back in 2002, but split with the ruling party shortly after the elections of the local parliament in Ajdara Autonomous Republic last June. The Republicans ran in those elections independently and gained only two seats in the Adjara’s 30-member legislative body.
Davit Usupashvili said that the Republicans’ “are not in opposition personally to Mikheil Saakashvili. We are in the opposition to the ruling group.”
“The platform of our party stands on the following principles: rule of law, decentralization of governance, peaceful settlement of conflicts, integration into the western structures, real implementation and establishment of European standards and not just making of illusion of this. The Republican Party will be ready to debate with the authorities over these issues on daily bases both in regions and in the capital,” Usupashvili said.
In April, 2005 Usupashvili received an award from an influential group of the Georgian non-governmental organizations for his contribution in development of the civil society organizations. He said at the ceremony, which was held in frames of NGO Fair, that this award was for him “a symbolic farewell” to the NGO sector.
“But I promise that in 2015 a Political Party Fair will be held where I will again receive an award and then will return back to you,” Usupashvili said addressing civil society leaders.