President Saakashvili’s UNM party announced on Monday that it would launch primaries to select its presidential candidate for October election by the end of this month.
“It means that a candidate will be selected not with a decision of a single person or a group of people, but by the party in a whole, by all of its members, supporters and by those citizens who would like to be part of this process,” UNM parliamentary minority leader Davit Bakradze said. “It will be a very open and transparent process and we want to establish a new standard in the Georgian politics when a candidate is selected not through a decision of a single person, as it happens by some of our competitor parties, but through completely open and transparent process.”
He said registration for candidates, willing to contest in UNM’s presidential primaries, would be open for a week starting from June 17.
The primaries, Bakradze said, would involve holding of “several regional conferences.”
“Issue-based debates between contestants will be held during these conferences,” Bakradze said, adding that after each of these regional conferences a voting will be held in which a winner of that particular debate will be identified.
“We also want our compatriots, living abroad, to be involved in the process and for that reason an online registration will be possible through which they will be able to cast ballot via the internet,” Bakradze said.
The process is expected to start by the end of June and will last for a month, according to Bakradze, who said that other details and exact schedule of primaries would be announced at a later date.
The announcement was made after the meeting of UNM’s senior leadership in the party’s Tbilisi headquarters, which also involved President Saakashvili.
Bakradze said that although after the arrest of UNM secretary general and former PM Vano Merabishvili the party was mulling dropping plans of holding primaries, it eventually decided to stick to its original plan.
“In order to demonstrate that the arrest of secretary general does not mean destroying party’s infrastructure and undermining party’s unity and spirit – something that the government wanted, we decided not to change our initial plan and to select a candidate through primaries,” Bakradze said.
Georgian Dream coalition named education minister and PM Ivanishvili's close confidant Giorgi Margvelashvili as its presidential candidate on May 11.
Commenting on UNM’s intention to select its presidential candidate through internal elections, Margvelashvili said on June 17 that he was not following primaries of President Saakashvili’s party.
“Show me a Georgian citizen, who would regard the National Movement as a competitor not only in the presidential elections, but generally in the Georgian politics,” Margvelashvili told journalists on June 17.
Nino Burjanadze, leader of the Democratic Movement-United Georgia, who was parliament speaker from 2001 to 2008 and leader of Labor Party, Shalva Natelashvili, have also announced about intention to run for president in the October election.