Acting PM Vano Merabishvili has become the United National Movement’s (UNM) general secretary to lead the process of UNM’s, as President Saakashvili put it, “purification, catharsis and renewal”.
Merabishvili has once already held the post; he was the party’s secretary general for less than two years since 2002 when UNM was in opposition to ex-President Eduard Shevardnadze until it came into power as a result of the Rose Revolution in late 2003.
Merabishvili said that he would turn UNM, which after almost nine years in power was defeated in the October 1 parliamentary elections by Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream coalition, into “modern, new type of party.”
“The recent events, when the [United] National Movement was defeated in the elections, showed that the National Movement needs renewal and I have a plan with my friends to create new, modern party, because the country has changed in recent years; our society has changed too and our country has developed and the National Movement will become modern, new type of party; it will lay a foundation to establishing a firm democracy in Georgia; like the National Movement created the new state, now the National Movement has the task now to create new type of opposition movement,” he said.
“Of course our goal and task is and will be to return back into power and to carry out those values for which we have been advocating for years,” Merabishvili added.
UNM, whose chairman is President Saakashvili, won 65 seats in the new Parliament against Georgian Dream’s 85. According to outgoing parliamentary speaker Davit Bakradze UNM would form several factions in the Parliament.
Speaking before UNM leadership and its elected lawmakers on October 15, President Saakashvili said that UNM “will maintain strength and its decisive role in country’s political life.”
He said that despite progress, poverty and unemployment remained huge challenges in Georgia, which in turn was creating a breeding ground for “populism”, making for “certain forces” easer to capitalize on such situation ahead of the elections.
“These elections, election results and developments that will unfold in Georgia in following months and years will be a very important period for the Georgian society. I am sure that we, as the society in a whole, will develop very much,” Saakashvili said.
“And for us, as the party, it should be a very important period of purification, catharsis, renewal and launch of a new stage.”
“I am sure that the National Movement will maintain strength and its decisive role in country’s political life,” he said.
For the first time in Georgia’s recent history, the country will now have “only two strong political parties” in the Parliament, Saakashvili said.
“We should use it in a right way,” he said.
“Obstructing the new government is not our goal,” Saakashvili said, adding that the present authorities were handing almost all the executive powers over to the incoming new government.
He said that his government was bequeathing to the new one the largest budgetary resources Georgia ever had; “well-functioning institutions” and “very good infrastructure.”
“We are handing over it inviolably to the new government; so now they have to use it for delivering on their promises and for the wellbeing of the Georgian people,” he said.
“We will be glad about each and every step that this new government will take for the wellbeing of the multi-ethnic Georgian society. We also know that fundamental differences exist between us; our views about what should be the vector of Georgia’s development are profoundly different; but even over these issue we should try to reduce these differences if possible; if not possible, our opposing approach should be made in a very constructive manner. We won’t be happy with any failure of Georgia’s new government,” Saakashvili said.
“That’s our vision; we can’t be in the opposition to our own homeland; we can be in the opposition to another political force, which will be a very healthy process first of all for this very same political force, which will have majority in the Georgian Parliament.”
“The idea of National Movement is relevant as never because; this idea is based on the establishment of the Georgian statehood – we have achieved unimaginable progress in this regard in recent years; this idea is based on rebuilding… and on wellbeing of each and every family – much still remains to be done in this regard; I would not say that we have accomplished in any of these directions; we had progress in all of these directions, but it was only start of the beginning.”
“We would like the next government to continue it, but no matter how the new government acts, the Georgian people will definitely continue it and we will be a very important part of this continuation,” he said.
He said that the UNM needed “new people, renewal and new blood and added that Vano Merabishvili with his “very good managerial experience” was a good choice for the post of the party’s secretary general.
“We are the organization based on ideas, not on personalities, because specific persons will come and go. We want many new [people] to come in order to keep these ideas alive,” he said.
Later on October 15 Merabishvili was interviewed by the Rustavi 2 TV during which the acting PM said that thorough analysis of reason behind UNM’s defeat in the elections would take place “in order not to repeat the same mistakes” in the future.
Asked whether the prison abuse scandal caused UNM’s defeat, Merabishvili responded: “Not only that. I think there were many other circumstances too. But today it is still difficult to make a precise analysis.”
Some of the Georgian Dream representatives have said recently that they would try to attract support of UNM’s elected MPs to endorse such bills that require votes from two-third of parliament member. Georgian Dream falls 15 MPs short of 100, required for endorsing constitutional amendments.
When asked how real it was that UNM might loss seats in the parliament at the expense of some of its members switching sides to the Georgian Dream, Merabishvili responded: “I am sure that absolute majority of [UNM members] who won seats in the Parliament will remain committed to those principles under which they ran in the elections, regardless of any potential pressure that may be exerted on them.”
“I hope that the new authorities will have enough prudence not to exert pressure on lawmakers,” he said.
Merabishvili also said that UNM would set “new standards” in the Georgian politics for cooperation between the opposition and the authorities over the issues where their opinions concur and would also “set new standards for constructiveness” in polemics over the issues which are source of disagreement.