Irakli Alasania, leader of opposition Alliance for Georgia, said he was launching his electoral campaign for the Tbilisi mayoral office, as with local elections less than three months away, there was no time for “endless talks” on single opposition candidate.
He was speaking at an indoor rally in basketball arena in downtown Tbilisi on March 4; the gathering was formally convened by a group of opposition-leaning civil society organizations.
Georgian Academy, an organization uniting a group of actors, academics and some intelligentsia figures, was a key organizer of the gathering.
After announcing about endorsement of Alasania, Nukri Kantaria of Georgian Academy told the leader of Alliance for Georgia: “The ball is in your court” and handed him over a rugby ball by adding: “this is the ball of responsibility and symbol of victory; score a try by grounding it in mayor’s office.”
“I will say directly, I am running in these elections in order to win,” Alasania told the rally. “This victory will be possible if majority of our society demonstrates civil responsibility and goes to polling stations on the election day.”
Referring to suggestions that upcoming local elections will be more than just for Tbilisi mayoral office, Alasania said: “These are not ordinary elections… It will be a moment of an important decision for our country, for our capital and for each of us.”
Speaking about his controversial decision to engage in talks with some of the opposition parties, including with one of ex-PM Zurab Nogaideli, which put him at odds with his political partners from Alliance for Georgia, Alasania said that he had to try to open possibility for a dialogue.
“Of course, there differences, which were not possible to overcome; talks have been held; we have exchanged opinions, but it was revealed during the dialogue that we cannot lose time any more… We can not waste time any more,” Alasania said.
With number of key opposition parties intending to boycott the May local elections, Alasania has so far been publicly endorsed by ex-foreign minister Salome Zourabichvili, leader of Georgia’s Way Party.
Levan Gachechiladze, a former presidential candidate of large group of opposition parties in 2008 elections, has yet to announce about his plans over upcoming elections – whether he will run himself, support any of the candidates, or will keep away from the process.
Alasania said on March 4, that Gachechiladze’s support would be “decisive” for his success in the mayoral race.
Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM), a leading party in the parliamentary minority group, and its mayoral candidate Giorgi Chanturia are running a campaign on their own without aligning themselves with any of the other opposition groups. Chanturia, who described himself as neither opposition nor pro-government figure, would be running for the office no matter what the configuration on the other side of the opposition front will be.
Beer magnate, Gogi Topadze, a co-founder of Industry Will Save Georgia (Industrialists) party, has also announced intention to run for the Tbilisi mayoral office.
There are also several political unknowns running in the polls, including Nika Ivanishvili, who was head of traffic police in late 90s. Ivanishvili founded his political party on March 4. Tamaz Vashadze, who briefly was Tbilisi mayor, 19 years ago, also said he would run.
Davit Iakobidze, who served as Georgia’s finance minister in 90s under former President Shevardnadze’s administration, was nominated as mayoral candidate by MP Gia Tortladze’s Democratic Party of Georgia.
A group of three parties – Conservative, Party of People and ex-PM Nogaideli’s Movement for Fair Georgia, which are closely cooperating, are expected to decide about their plans on March 7.
Incumbent Tbilisi mayor, Gigi Ugulava, is expected to be the ruling party’s candidate; he has yet to be formally nominated.
The ruling party is likely to benefit from presence of many candidates in the mayoral race as it would split an overall opposition votes, increasing ruling party nominee’s chances to garner most of the votes and winning the election without runoff. A candidate, who receives most of the votes, but not less than 30%, will be declared an outright winner.