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Presidential Hopeful Natelashvili Lays Out Priorities
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 29 Nov.'07 / 14:03

Shalva Natelashvili, leader of the opposition Labor Party and presidential candidate, has promised to provide free education and medical care, and to nationalize “illegally privatized property.”

Natelashvili, launching his election campaign on November 29, was speaking with journalists outside a Tbilisi church.

The General Prosecutor’s Office said on November 9 that Natelashvili would face charges relating to espionage and conspiracy to overthrow the government. The next day, however, it softened its stance and said “investigators have decided to question Natelashvili as a witness.” Then President Saakashvili said that Natelashvili would not be arrested and he could “freely run for the presidency.”

The Labor Party was part of a ten-party opposition coalition; however, following the bloc's nomination of independent lawmaker Levan Gachechiladze as its presidential candidate, the Labor Party decided to go solo.

Some politicians from the now nine-party opposition coalition have alleged that Natelashvili’s decision to run for the presidency was made under pressure from the authorities, who, they say, are trying to split the opposition.
 
“We will have state-funded free education and medical care,” Natelashvili said on November 29. “Unemployment will be cut, while those temporarily still unemployed will receive an allowance. There will be no poor and hungry people in our country.”

He also promised to half the cost of gas, electricity and water if elected.

“Taxes on the use of forests and land and rents on dwelling spaces will be abolished. Peasants will be given soft loans. Agricultural machinery and tractor stations will be created… We will establish a balanced investment system, with preferential tax treatment for small and medium businesses.”

Natelashvili also promised to give GEL 1,000 (about USD 617) for each newborn child.

He also said that he would, as President, restrict the in-flow of migrant workers. “Raids by illegal migrant workers, who spread like mushrooms, will be resisted,” Natelashvili thundered. “We don't have enough jobs for ourselves, so we cannot give them to others.”

Natelashvili also pledged to compensate people who lost savings with the collapse of the Soviet banking system in the early 1990s.

He also said he would “pay due attention to political parties, the opposition, and non-governmental and civil society organizations.” “All restrictions and censorship on the mass media and electronic media will be lifted,” he added.

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