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Opposition Coalition Names Presidential Candidate
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 12 Nov.'07 / 19:17

Levan Gachechiladze. November 12, Tbilisi.
Photo: Guram Muradov/Civil.Ge
Levan Gachechiladze, a 43-year-old independent lawmaker, has been nominated by nine opposition parties as an agreed candidate for the January 5 snap presidential elections.

Salome Zourabichvili, former Georgian foreign minister and leader of Georgia’s Way Party, has been selected by the opposition bloc to be the prime minister in the event of Gachechiladze winning the presidential race.

“I want to thank the Georgian people and the united opposition for their support,” MP Gachechiladze said at a news conference on November 12. “This will not be a normal election. This will be a continuation of our struggle against violence, against unfairness and against the presidential institution.”

He also said that it was high time “to put an end” to, what he called, “chief-mania” – a regular opposition theme which stresses the alleged concentration of power in the hands of one person, namely Mikheil Saakashvili, and the need to diminish presidential powers and strengthen those of Parliament.

“Once I have reached this goal I will quit politics and retire,” MP Gachechiladze said.

“We nominated someone who will provide a very serious challenge to Saakashvili,” Salome Zourabichvili, who had previously expressed her own presidential ambitions, said on November 12. Zourabichvili, however, was ineligible to run due to a fifteen year residency requirement. She has only lived in Georgia since 2003.

MP Gachechiladze’s nomination will be supported by the Republican Party; Conservative Party; Georgia’s Way; Freedom; On Our Own; Party of People; Movement for United Georgia (ex-defense minister Irakli Okruashvili’s party); Georgian Troupe and National Forum.

The Labor Party was initially part of this coalition, but an announcement on November 12 that it wanted its leader, Shalva Natelashvili, to run for the presidency, has effectively ended its involvement.

Koba Davitashvili, the leader of People’s Party, said the fact that Levan Gachechiladze was a lawmaker with no party affiliation and his active role in the opposition’s recent campaigns and demonstrations were the main factors contributing to his selection as the agreed opposition candidate.

“He [MP Gachechiladze] is an independent MP and enjoys wide popularity and he has always stood by the people and has been actively engaged in our recent campaign,” Davitashvili told Civil.Ge.

Gachechiladze, one of the founders of the Georgian Wines and Spirits company, has been a lawmaker since 1999, when he was elected to Parliament on the then ruling party Citizen’s Union of Georgia’s party-list. Along with some other lawmakers, he split with ex-President Shevardnadze’s party in 2001 and formed the opposition New Rights Party.

MP Gachechiladze, however, quit the New Rights Party in late 2003 because of a refusal by other party leaders to support the Rose Revolution. Gachechiladze had kept a low profile since then. He only became an active political figure in late September when the ten-party opposition coalition was set up. He joined the bloc as an independent lawmaker.

Meanwhile, opposition leaders say that the upcoming presidential election will effectively amount to a referendum.

“A referendum will be held on January 5 with the question: do you want Georgia without a president; do you want Georgia without Saakashvili? And the Georgian people will win in this referendum,” Koba Davitashvili, the leader of People’s Party, said.

Other opposition candidates planning to challenge President Saakashvili in the election include the New Rights Party leader, Davit Gamkrelidze, and the leader of Party of Future, Gia Maisashvili.

Business tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili has also signalled his intention to run. He has made no comment as of yet on Gachechiladze's nomination. Givi Targamadze, a lawmaker from the ruling National Movement Party, has alleged that Gachechiladze will eventually withdraw from the race in favor of Patarkatsishvili.

Opposition leaders, however, have already insisted that they would not support a Patarkatsishvili presidential bid.

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