More opposition voices joined on February 25 calls for distancing from ex-PM Zurab Nogaideli and any potential coalition that may emerge with his party participation.
Salome Zourabichvili, ex-foreign minister and leader of Georgia’s Way party, said that the opposition was facing “a provocation” ahead of the upcoming local elections and “the name of this provocation is Zurab Nogaideli.”
“We should cope with this provocation very simply, very calmly; we should distance ourselves from Nogaideli,” she said on February 25. “Nogaideli’s emergence in the political arena has disintegrated the opposition and discredited it.”
“Our struggle should be through elections and not through Moscow… The opposition unity is required, but not at any expense, not at the expense of overstepping our principles and interests of our country,” Zourabichvili said, referring to Nogaideli’s contacts with the Russian leadership.
She said that it has long been the authorities plan to portray itself as the only pro-western force in Georgia and to label entire opposition as pro-Russian.
Zourabichvili, who announced last year that would support Alasania’s mayoral bid, reiterated on February 25 that she still considers him as the best possible opposition candidate. But she also said that Alasania had yet to show “leadership” and “he still has some time to do so.”
National Forum, an opposition party, which does not plan to run in the local elections, also said on February 25 that any cooperation with a possible alliance, which would include Nogaideli’s party, was unacceptable.
“No one should bother inviting National Forum where we will be thanked by Nogaideli, the Kremlin and Putin,” Kakha Shartava, leader of National Forum, said.
Shartava was referring to remarks by some opposition politicians, including of Nogaideli, who were thanking Irakli Alasania, leader of Our Georgia-Free Democrats, at a gathering on February 24 for joining consultations to select a single candidate for Tbilisi mayoral race.
Statements by Georgia’s Way and National Forum echoes position of New Rights and Republicans – two parties which formally still remain in alliance with Alasania’s OGFD party. Alasania, however, further distanced himself from his partners after appearing alongside with Nogaideli and his allies Conservative Party, Party of People and Levan Gachechiladze, leader of public movement Defend Georgia, at an indoor gathering on February 24.
Alasania justified his move with a need to select a single opposition mayoral candidate, but his argument has been rejected by his formal partners from Republican and New Rights parties, who say that by this move Alasania is undermining own political career. Although voicing some critical remarks in address of Alasania, New Rights and Republicans refrain from any strong criticism saying that Alasania still remains the Alliance for Georgia’s mayoral candidate and his affiliation with the group will depend on Alasania’s final decision towards his role in a coalition involving Nogaideli.
“We are in contacts with Irakli Alasania and soon he will announce about his decision,” Tina Khidasheli of the Republican Party said on February 26.
The New Rights and Republicans also said that if Alasania agrees to participate in preliminary elections, so called primaries organized by that coalition, it would automatically mean Alasania’s withdrawal from the Alliance for Georgia.
The same position was reiterated on February 26 by ex-public defender, Sozar Subari, who is an individual member of the Alliance for Georgia and a candidate for a Tbilisi City Council chairmanship.
Levan Berdzenishvili, a senior Republican Party member, said it still remained unclear for him why Alasania decided to shift from Alliance for Georgia, which, he said, was the most popular opposition union, to a potential coalition which included parties and politicians with far lower popular support. “That is a question on which I do not have an answer,” Levan Berdzenishvili said.
Meanwhile, senior figures from the opposition group, which holds consultations on a single candidate, gathered at a meeting outside Tbilisi late on February 25. Kakha Kukava of Conservative Party; Zurab Nogaideli, Levan Gachechiladze as well as Party of People representative were present. Erosi Kitsmarishvili, a managing director of Tbilisi-based Maestro TV was also taking part in the meeting. He told journalists after the meeting that he was discussing allotting airtime on Maestro TV to potential candidate in case of holding primaries. But viewing Kitsmarishvili’s background of being a long-time political insider, speculation is rife that his role might be more than just deciding on matters only involving distribution of airtime on Maestro TV. According to OGFD, Irakli Alasania did not participate in that meeting.