New Political Center-Girchi and New Georgia, which were launched by former UNM lawmakers, as well as New Rights Party announced about forming an electoral bloc to run on the joint ticket in the October 8 parliamentary elections.
“We are launching a political bloc… which offers a choice not between bad and worse, but between past and future. We should leave political forces, which came into power on the wave of confrontation, in the past,” MP Giorgi Vashadze, leader of New Georgia, said when announcing about the electoral bloc on August 5.
“We are uniting around three major principles – personal liberties, economic liberties and the Western choice. We are uniting around values, not around personalities,” he said.
MP Vashadze launched the New Georgia party after he quit UNM opposition party in May, 2016. Before becoming a lawmaker through UNM’s party list in 2012, Vashadze served as deputy justice minister when the UNM was in government; in this capacity he was overseeing development of Public Service Halls – one-stop shops where citizen can get multiple services from various state agencies. Along with being in UNM’s party list in 2012 elections, he also ran as a majoritarian MP candidate in Tbilisi’s Isani single-mandate constituency, but lost the race to Georgian Dream’s candidate.
MP Zurab Japaridze launched the New Political Center-Girchi (pine cone) after he and three other lawmakers quit UNM party in May, 2015.
In his remarks at the presentation of the newly formed bloc, called “New Choice”, MP Japaridze said that in the face of “growing number” pro-Russian groups in Georgia, it is especially important to unite pro-Western forces.
“Today, like never before, there is a need to create new choice for [voters], an alternative choice, which will inspire hope for people, disillusioned by politics, and at the same time will be a reliable partner for Georgia’s partners internationally, including in our neighborhood,” MP Japaridze said.
The New Political Center-Girchi, which describes itself as a pro-Western, socially liberal and fiscally conservative party, advocates for zero income, profit, and import tax rates, as well as for drastic cut in bureaucratic expenses, including through scrapping of several ministries; it is in a forefront of a campaign for liberalisation of drug policy. NPC-Girchi, which is trying to target young voters, is known for its witty, at times controversial, video clips, distributed through its social media platforms.
The third party in the newly formed bloc is the New Rights, which was formed 15 years ago, and which is now chaired by Mamuka Katsitadze, whose one of the most visible activities recently was lobbying for a major electoral system reform, rejected by the authorities. The party was chaired by Pikria Chikhradze before she was appointed as President’s political adviser in October, 2015.
“The New Rights party has been in numerous political and electoral blocs over the past 15 years, but there have never been such a concurrence of ideology, values, foreign policy and economic policies, like we have with our partners [Girchi and New Georgia] now,” Katsitadze said.
“We have differences in how we assess the past, but we have shared vision of the future,” said Katsitadze, whose New Rights party has always been in opposition to UNM when the latter was in government. “We believe that Georgia should live with future, not with grudge and confrontation of the past.”
“We should be that very key player in the Georgian politics without whom it will be impossible to take any major decision,” he said.
A poll, commissioned by NDI and fielded by CRRC in June, showed that none of the three parties in the newly formed electoral bloc had enough support to clear 5% threshold, required for a party to endorse its members in the Parliament.
MP Japaridze told Tbilisi-based TV station, Pirveli, on August 5 that the recent polls show there is “a demand for creating new choice” for voters. “And I am convinced that we will have no problem to clear 5 percent electoral threshold – it was also one of the reasons behind forming this electoral bloc,” he said.