Georgia’s Opposition UNM Splits into Two

TBILISI – Georgia’s main opposition party – the United National Movement (UNM) officially split into two, after 38 Heads of UNM municipal and regional organizations, 21 MPs, also part of the council members decided to leave the party on Thursday.

In the whole 59 members left the party on January 12.

The decision was made after the inter-party confrontation about January 20 party congress, which will gather around 7000 delegates to decide the fate of the party.

The UNM members also had disagreement about electing new leader of the party, which divided the party into two groups.

The group, which left the party, was for distancing the founder and informal leader of the party, Georgia’s ex-president, Mikheil Saakashvili, who is now a Ukrainian citizen and formed his own opposition party there.

Another wing, which stayed in the party, says election of a new party leader will destroy the UNM and Saakashvili should stay as informal head of the party.

The political leaders who have left the United National Movement are going to continue political activities in the party - European Georgia. However, the party name might be changed.

Former members of the UNM will also maintain their fraction in the parliament. According to unconfirmed information, the faction will be led by Sergo Ratiani, however, the candidacies of Irakli Abesadze and Otar Kakhidze are also being considered.

Former Tbilisi Mayor, Gigi Ugulava, who left the prison just several days ago, also quit the UNM. He underlined that UNM does not belong to Saakashvili only and he cannot be the leader any more.

“The party should elect a new leader, and it would not damage Saakashvili’s image, however, he wants to maintain this chair…So he is the only one responsible for the split of the party,” Ugulava said.

Another prominent UNM leader, Davit Bakradze, who also quit the party, said they had left the inter-party controversy in the past and would build a new future.

As anti-Saakashvili wing left the party, new leader of the UNM, Nika Melia, said the party was not weakened after the split, but strengthened.

“The National Movement is now free of insularity, arrogance, nepotism, ignorance… On January 20 the party will start a new stage. The UNM does not belong to Saakashvili or anyone else. It belongs to the people,” said Melia.

Ex-President Saakashvili also commented on the issue. He said Ugulava criticized him more than “Georgia’s informal ruler Bidzina Ivanishvili,” who is ex-Prime Minister and founder of the ruling party Georgian Dream.

“Losers’ governance is over. The party is now the most united and powerful than it had been for the last 4 years, since its control was regained by tens of thousands of activists,” Saakashvili’s Facebook post reads.

Political Analyst, Gia Khukhashvili believes that since the prominent members left UNM, “there is no political intellect left within the party.”

“The split of the UNM does not change Georgia’s political climate, but changes many things for the party. The split is quite strange: The political elite are on one side and informal leader and his followers on the other,” the expert said.

By Thea Morrison

Photo source: Tabula

12 January 2017 22:18