Four candidates, including former parliament speaker and now leader of parliamentary minority group Davit Bakradze, will be running for UNM presidential nomination in October, 2013 elections.
Other three candidates are UNM lawmakers Giorgi Baramidze; Zurab Japaridze and Shota Malashkhia.
The candidates will be contesting for the presidential nomination in primaries winner of which is expected to be announced at a conference in Tbilisi on July 28.
Previously Bakradze sounded reluctant over the prospect of running for president. Explaining his decision to agree on being a candidate in the UNM’s primaries, Bakradze said on June 28 that recently emerged videos showing torture of two men by law enforcement officers reportedly in 2011 played a role in his decision in favor for running in the primaries.
“I want to tell you frankly that it was a very difficult and serious decision for me. I thought very much about it before making this decision,” Bakradze told Rustavi 2 TV’s talk show Position late on Friday.
“I have a sense of obligation as I was part of the political team [in previous authorities], chairman of the parliament and I feel that I have moral obligations before those people who became victims of unfair treatment or violence from the previous authorities. Instead of standing aside – that would have been comfortable in such a situation, I feel that it is my moral obligation now before those people who were victims of violent actions or injustice over the recent years to apologize before these people and to spare no efforts in order not to let such things reoccur again in the future and to help them in restoring their rights today because I failed to do it yesterday,” Bakradze said.
“It is also my moral obligation before the United National movement supporters not to stand aside, but to stand beside them and to struggle together with them, because absolute majority of our supporters are today in the state of trauma, pain and shock against the backdrop of torrent of accusations that is directed against [UNM],” he said.
“It is my obligation before these people to look them in the eye and to tell them that we should be proud of achievements that we have made over the past nine years… But in order to be proud of our past, we should also face the problems that persisted in the past; we should analyze and acknowledge all those problems that persisted in the past. For me being able to face the problem, to analyze it and to apologize is a sign of strength not weakness.”
“So I want to tell [UNM] party supporters and members: I am not standing aside, I have obligations before you and I will stay with you to the end and we will be able to bring our past [deeds], both negative and positive ones, to the people objectively,” he said.
He also said that “the direction in which the country is now moving is dangerous”, adding that “such level of polarization, confrontation, hysteria and hatred between politicians is inadmissible.”
“So it is my moral obligation before this country to stay where I am and to do everything possible to make processes move towards calming down, reconciliation and development,” he added.
Bakradze also stressed that it was important to realize what the upcoming presidential elections would not be about change of the government. After the presidential elections new constitution will go into force, which will significantly reduce powers of the president and increase those of the prime minister.
“These elections are not about change of the government and we should take it into consideration when speaking about opposition’s chances in these elections. These elections will not lead to change of the current government and [Prime Minister] Bidzina Ivanishvili; the current government will remain. Upcoming elections have to define one thing: whether or not all the posts [in every branch of government] will be held by a single political force,” Bakradze said.
“Past experiences, including our own [UNM’s] experience, shows that when a single political force is in possession of all the posts, it is not good for the country,” he added.
In March, 2013 poll, commissioned by NDI and fielded by CRRC, Bakradze enjoyed with highest favorability rating among UNM figures with 48% (question asked to respondents was 'do you like or dislike'), far ahead of many UNM politicians, including President Saakashvili who had 25%.
Giorgi Baramidze, who is also a candidate in UNM’s presidential primaries, had 19% of favorability rating in the same poll in March.
Baramidze was the longest serving cabinet minister when UNM was in power; first he held interior minister's post after the 2003 Rose Revolution and then defense minister's post in June-December, 2004. He was the state minister for Euro-Atlantic integration issues from December, 2004 to August, 2012 before being named UNM’s majoritarian MP candidate in Batumi single-mandate constituency. Before joining the executive government in 2004 he spent almost ten years as a lawmaker.
In 2012 parliamentary elections Baramidze lost majoritarian MP race in Batumi to GD’s candidate Murman Dumbadze; Baramidze garnered 31.3% of votes against Dumbadze’s 63.3%. Baramidze, however, became a lawmaker through UNM’s party-list.
MP Shota Malashkhia, who is also running in the UNM’s presidential primaries, was chairman of the parliamentary commission on territorial integrity in the previous Parliament.
Unlike three other contenders, MP Zurab Japaridze is relatively newcomer in politics who joined the UNM ahead of the October, 2012 parliamentary elections and became a lawmaker through UNM’s party-list.