Georgian Dream ruling coalition named on Saturday its candidates who will run for mayoral offices of those eleven cities, which will directly elect mayors for the first time in the June 15 local elections.
Candidates were named by PM Irakli Garibashvili, who is also GD leader, at a ruling coalition’s gathering in the Sports Palace in Tbilisi, which marked a formal launch of GD’s election campaign; ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili was also present.
GD’s mayoral candidate for the capital city, Tbilisi, Davit Narmania, was first named five months ago, when he was the infrastructure minister.
GD’s mayoral candidates for eleven other “self-governed” cities, unveiled on April 26, are:
- Kutaisi – Shota Murgulia; he was deputy minister of infrastructure and regional development before being appointed as acting mayor of Kutaisi, the second-largest city of the country, in November, 2013;
- Batumi – Giorgi Ermakov; he is an acting mayor of this port and resort town in the Adjara Autonomous Republic since mid-February, 2014;
- Rustavi – Davit Jikia; he is now an acting mayor of this city in south of Tbilisi;
- Gori – Zurab Jirkvelishvili, a director of Gori Greenhouse Farming, a state-affiliated entity;
- Telavi – Vato Kalmakhelidze; he was head of the Beeline mobile operator’s local branch in this main town of the Kakheti region in eastern Georgia;
- Zugdidi – Irakli Gogokhia, a local businessman in this main town of Samegrelo region in western Georgia, who now co-owns a firm Oil Pro; he was a member of Zugdidi city council, Sakrebulo, in 2002-2006;
- Poti – Irakli Kakulia, a chairman of Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia party’s local branch in this port town in the Samegrelo region; earlier this year he was appointed as acting deputy mayor of Poti;
- Akhaltsikhe – Giorgi Kopadze; in March, 2014 he became head of the Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia party’s branch in Akhaltsikhe, a town in Samtskhe-Javakheti region; he was in forefront of anti-minaret protest in Akhaltsikhe last year;
- Ambrolauri – Rati Namgaladze, a native of this small town in Racha-Lechkhumi mountainous region, has worked for a revenue service in Kutaisi since 2011;
- Ozurgeti – Beglar Sioridze, an owner of Ozurgeti-based Hazelnut Export Company;
- Mtskheta – Avtandil Nemsitsveridze, head of the Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia party’s local branch in Mtskheta;
Addressing an audience in the Sports Palace, PM Garibashvili said he’s “confident that these candidates will win a convincing victory.”
Garibashvili started his speech by saying, referring to ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili, that “the most respected persons for me is today with us here in this chamber, who made a miracle two years ago” by defeating then ruling UNM party in parliamentary elections; his remarks drew a standing ovation from the audience.
He said that the June 15 local elections would be a milestone through which level of Georgia’s freedom and democracy “will be measured once again.”
Garibashvili, who spoke about importance of local self-governance, said that out of fear of losing power on local level, previous governments were unwilling to introduce direct election of mayors and heads of municipalities – something that was made possible as a result of new self-governance legislation adopted in February, 2014.
In his speech the PM expressed “regret” that it is not possible to extend Georgia’s local elections to its breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“But we hope that we will use all the peaceful means and international mechanisms for de-occupation of our country,” he said, adding that Georgia should become “attractive” country for “our Abkhaz and South Ossetian brothers”.
Kakha Kaladze, the vice-premier and energy minister, who leads GD’s campaign headquarters, told the assembly that with these upcoming elections Georgia “will once again pass its test in democracy.”
Davit Narmania, GD’s Tbilisi mayoral candidate, who was the third and final speaker at the event, said: “We know what the problems are, understand people’s concerns and we exactly how to solve Tbilisi’s problems together with you.”
Narmania told journalists after the event was over that he’s confident he will win the race without requiring second round of vote.
A candidate has to win more than 50% of votes in the first round to be declared an outright winner of the race without requirement runoff.
Other candidates who have announced about intention to run in the Tbilisi mayoral race are: UNM’s Nika Melia, head of Tbilisi’s Mtatsminda district; Dimitri Lortkipanidze, named by a coalition of CDM and Nino Burjanadze’s DMUG party; Kakha Kukava, named by coalition of New Rights and Free Georgia parties; MP Giorgi Gachechiladze, who is the leader of Greens’ Party and who quit the GD parliamentary majority in February; Labor Party named actress Asmat Tkabladze.