President Saakashvili’s UNM party has lost majority in Tbilisi City Council (Sakrebulo) after chairman of the party’s faction in Sakrebulo, Koki Ionatamishvili, announced about quitting the party.
UNM now has 23 representatives in the 47-member Sakrebulo (there are total of 50 seats but three of them are currently vacant) after more than dozen of its members quit the party since the October 2012 parliamentary elections.
Although most of the remaining members of Sakrebulo are united in factions, which are either part of the Georgian Dream (GD) coalition or otherwise affiliated with the GD, the latter still falls short of majority in the capital city’s Sakrebulo. Four councillors are independent members of the Sakrebulo, who are not affiliated to any of the faction.
Ionatamishvili, who became chairman of UNM’s faction in Tbilisi Sakrebulo after the previous chairman Nikoloz Khachirashvili also quit UNM earlier this year, will become fifth independent member of Sakrebulo.
Ionatamishvili, who chaired Tbilisi-based non-governmental organization New Generation-New Initiative in 2003-2009, was Tbilisi mayor Gigi Ugulava’s close aide before being elected in Tbilisi Sakrebulo in 2010 local elections.
In a lengthy statement, explaining his decision to quit President Saakashvili’s party, Ionatamishvili criticizes UNM for “failing to tackle tasks it is facing”, as well as for a failure to carry out “transformation” and “renewal”. In the same statement he also slams GD coalition for “trying to destroy” UNM and for pursuing policies which trigger “polarization within the society” and which leave no room for “civilized political process” and “dialogue.”
“[UNM] no longer represents an instrument of struggle for better Georgia,” Ionatamishvili says in his written statement on July 1. “Deplorable mistakes by the party leadership made it completely impossible to use the party platform for achieving general and concrete tasks.”
“UNM fails to assess properly the situation and to take relevant actions. Launch of the new national movement was announced [at UNM’s outdoor rally in Tbilisi] on April 19. Instead of reaching out to all the parties having European values and civil society groups (which of course would have been a difficult process), we have received even more closed party structure, which acts with incomprehensible instincts,” the statement reads.
He also says that members of UNM faction in Tbilisi Sakrebulo, as well as employees of the Tbilisi city municipality “are becoming to a large extent victims of completely unfair political attacks”. “These people have nothing to do with mistakes and crimes and with party’s management. Political persecution carried out against them is out of legal framework and is also beyond elementary common sense,” he writes.
In the statement Ionatamishvili also makes reference to torture videos and a large archive of recordings obtained through illegal surveillance and says that despite of many significant achievements that was made possible under UNM’s rule, “more or less closed” state institutions were established which made it possible for “wrongdoings or even crimes” to be committed.
Criticizing GD’s internal and foreign policies, Ionatamishvili says: “There is an obvious deficit of intellectual and political resources within the Georgian Dream and it is not able to tackle challenges the country is facing.”
Tbilisi mayor, Gigi Ugulava, said that Ionatamishvili was his “close colleague and friend for a long time” and respected his decision to quit the UNM, but also added that this decision was “wrong.”
“I think that he probably made a useful decision for himself and he may benefit from this decision. But I also think that in the existing conditions such move… is wrong and, to put it mildly, at odds with moral,” Ugulava told journalists.
Few hours after Ionatamishvili announced about quitting the UNM, president’s administration released to media sources a letter, which, it said, was sent to President Saakashvili “about three months ago” by Ionatamishvili and in which the latter asks the former assistance in selling his 2% shares in a firm, which owns a commercial space in Tbilisi, for USD 100,000.
“The President thinks that the politics should not be a subject for trading,” president’s spokesperson, Manana Manjgaladze, said.