The United National Movement (UNM) opposition party is dropping off the political radar and it “should not be left” in any municipality as a result of the June 15 local elections, PM Irakli Garibashvili said at a news conference on June 4.
The PM, who during his three-hour press conference mentioned UNM for multiple times partly because of questions, said “of course” he does not consider UNM to be a strong opposition.
“Their rating is declining day-by-day,” he said and claimed that UNM has only 5-6% support. "They are disappearing off the radar and from the political space; but it is happening automatically, we have nothing to do with it; that’s the result of what they have sown over the years; that’s the result of their deeds and that’s natural.”
He said “regrettably” there is no “strong opposition” in Georgia.
“We would like to have a strong, constructive, objective opposition,” Garibashvili said and also added that there is no threat of “one-party system” in Georgia because the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) itself is a coalition of six parties.
He said that UNM is spreading rumors as if the GD coalition will break up after the local elections. Garibashvili said that GD will run in next parliamentary elections in 2016 again as the coalition.
During the press conference he was asked about his controversial remarks made at an election campaign rally in Ozurgeti, Guria region, on May 31, when Garibashvili said that “we will not allow” victory of a political force other than the GD in any city or municipality in the upcoming local elections. Comments drew criticism from election observer groups and opposition parties.
Although he did not repeat those remarks at a press conference, Garibashvili actually stood by his comments made in Ozurgeti and said: “I have not made a wrong statement at all.” Garibashvili justified those comments by saying that at the campaign rally in Ozurgeti he was speaking as the leader of GD coalition and not in his capacity of the Prime Minister.
“I want to remind you that I am travelling in regions, actively running a campaign there. I made that statement as a leader of the ruling Georgian Dream coalition and not as the Prime Minister – that’s a big difference,” Garibashvili said.
“Of course a leader of any political force is motivated and interested in gaining maximum results for that political force,” he continued. “Of course I am motivated and I believe that we will win in every district and village and I will do everything in order to maximally reach our result. Of course we are talking about democratic elections, transparency, and equal, competitive environment. In these conditions of course I am motivated and it was a call to every voter and activists of our coalition to be active in order to achieve maximum result. There is nothing unusual in that, it was an appeal by a leader of a political force.”
At a separate campaign meeting also in Guria region on May 31, PM Garibashvili told a group of villagers that after “we should not leave any [UNM] holdover” in the local self-governance after the upcoming local elections. Asked about these remarks at the news conference on June 4, the PM said his comment was exaggeration.
“Let’s not argue about whether it was ethical or not, but I think there is nothing unusual in saying that we should win in all the districts and [the United] National Movement should not be left in any district, in any village. Of course this is not only my, but the population’s desire and our desires coincided [when meeting villagers in Guria] that the National Movement should not be left in any district, region and village – I mean that [it should happen] through election results, and that’s how it will be and I do not think there is someone in Georgia who has doubts about it. Our political force has no alternative,” Garibashvili said.
A senior UNM lawmaker Giorgi Gabashvili said PM’s comments at the press conference demonstrated that instead of addressing problems ranging from economy to raising crime rate, the government does not even admit that problems exist.
“The government is completely out of touch with reality and the only way to wake it up is on June 15” when local elections will be held, MP Gabashvili said.