As it was expected, leader of the parliamentary minority group, MP Davit Bakradze, became UNM’s presidential candidate for October 27, 2013 election after he was declared winner of primaries on Saturday.
UNM held primaries in six stages involving conferences in various parts of the country during which four contenders were debating; after each conference UNM delegates were casting ballot to their favorite candidate. Bakradze won in all six conferences, including in final one which was held in capital Tbilisi on July 27.
In a speech delivered after being declared winner of the primaries, Bakradze laid out some of the key points, which he plans to be the focus of his presidential campaign.
Bakradze, who was speaker of the parliament in 2008-2012, started his speech by saying that UNM’s decision to select its candidate through open, democratic way by holding internal party elections was in stark contrast to how the Georgian Dream coalition selected its presidential candidate, ex-education minister Giorgi Margvelashvili. Bakradze suggested that Margvelashvili was named by GD just because of his personal, close ties with PM Ivanishvili.
He said that unlike GD, the UNM “will never go down the path of revenge and retribution”
“I appeal to all the presidential candidates: none of us yet knows who will become the next president of Georgia. So let’s agree right now that whoever it might be, the task of the new president has to be defeating violence and hatred in the Georgian politics,” Bakradze said.
He said that the main task of next president should be overseeing government’s policies and actions and to make the government to deliver on its unfulfilled pre-election promises. Bakradze said that he would launch a campaign from next week, meeting voters in, what he called, would be “a tour on ‘unfulfilled promises’.”
“I am going to start meeting people from next week, which I would call a tour on ‘unfulfilled promises’ – during these meetings I will listen to the people and we will talk about those promises, which have been given by the government, but which have not yet been fulfilled; we will talk about how the new president should help the people and how to move forward,” Bakradze said.
“I hope that during recent ten months of being leader of the parliamentary opposition, I showed that while I can speak out critically, I also can compromise; be sharp and also constructive; I can demand from the government to do its job and also provide my assistance in doing this job,” he said.
Bakradze said that while he was also ready for televised debates with all the presidential candidates, it was especially important to hold series of separate, one-on-one debates between him and GD’s candidate Giorgi Margvelashvili, stressing that they were major contenders for presidency. He said that these one-on-one debates would be an opportunity for Margvelashvili to show that being a close confidant of PM Ivanishvili was not his only asset for upcoming elections.
“He should demonstrate that in case of presidency, he won’t be a puppet of the government – the best way to show it is to engage in debates I am offering him,” Bakradze said.
In his speech Bakradze stressed that the UNM was remaining united and in order to move forward the party should “assess the past objectively.”
“Today, this unity needs a healthy foundation,” he said. “I think that maximum sincerity and objectivity in our relations with the people will be such healthy foundation. We should be able to objectively assess the past. Plenty of good and important things have been done over the recent years – the Georgian state has actually been created and built and we should be proud of it.”
“But in order to be proud of our past, we should look into the eye of past mistakes, problems or crimes; assess everything candidly and objectively and show our people that we are learning and developing,” Bakradze said.
“Today many people ask me: ‘let’s say we will vote for you, does it mean that the old United National Movement will return with its old, unchanged policies?’ I want to state it clearly: the strength of the United National Movement is within its desire for renewal. We are taking with us knowledge, experience, patriotism and energy from the past – everything which the people were supporting this party for. But we are forever leaving behind in the past everything that the society deems to be our mistakes.”
The UNM’s final conference in frames of the primaries was held in ExpoGeorgia exhibition center in Tbilisi. Outside the venue anti-UNM protesters were rallying, who were barred from entry into the venue by the police; two protesters were detained.
Twenty five potential candidates have already applied to the Central Election Commission for registration to run in the October 27 presidential election (two of them were rejected in registration); most of them are little-known figures.
Apart of Margvelashvili and Bakradze, other prominent candidates who have so far confirmed intention to run for president are Nino Burjanadze, ex-speaker of parliament and leader of the Democratic Movement-United Georgia party; leader of Christian-Democratic Movement Giorgi Targamadze; leader of Labor Party Shalva Natelashvili and former Labor Party member Nestan Kirtadze.
“If the conditions for proper election campaign are in place, we will have a very tense and comparative presidential race,” said Secretary of National Security Council, Giga Bokeria, who was present at UNM’s primaries on July 27.