Tbilisi: the opposition seeks unity
by Vladimir Rozanskij

National Movement presidential candidates chosen. Outgoing leader Melia is favoured. All four contenders call for the release of former president Saakashvili. The pro-Western formation challenges the pro-Kremlin Georgian Dream currently in power.


Moscow (AsiaNews) - Members of the National Movement, the main opposition party in Georgia, have chosen their four candidates for the presidency, whose election will be held on 28-29 January using the innovative "blockchain" system.

Outgoing president Nika Melia, MP Levan Khabeišvili, former MP Nona Mamulašvili, who had recently left the formation, and humanitarian activist Georgij Mumladze will stand. All four contenders have one thing in common: saving the party's founder, former president Mikhail Saakašvili, who lies in prison seriously ill, under the common slogan 'Free Miša!'.

The candidates, starting with the closest to the squares Mumladze, have invited all supporters to demonstrate these days in front of the court in Tbilisi, where a new session of the trial against Saakashvili, who illegally returned home two years ago from Ukraine and was accused of embezzlement during his presidency, is being held. His lawyers and all his followers are at least asking for bail, for health reasons, while he is now a 'prisoner of the Russian regime' supported by the ruling Georgian Dream.

Of the four pretenders to the leadership of the National Movement, three are critical of the party's current management, which they consider too weak in the face of the pro-Russian prowess in power. Constitutionalist Mumladze was even a supporter of the Georgian Dream, but received the necessary support from five members of the party's executive council.

Mamulašvili had resigned from her parliamentary post, partly to defend her brother Mamuk, commander of the Georgian Legion engaged in Ukraine to fight against the Russian invasion. Her candidature has surprisingly emerged in recent days, supported by another of the young internal protesters, Georgij Khvedeliani, in a 'renewal front' calling for a decisive pro-Western turn in the party and the country.

The most determined opponent of the current administration is MP Khabeišvili, who has come to the fore with heavy accusations bordering on vulgarity against his party colleagues in parliament, thereby becoming very popular among the more radical supporters, especially in the provinces.

The most repeated criticism is directed at party chairman Melia, accused of 'ineptitude and political inability'. Now Khabeišvili assures that he will stick to the voters' indications, and will not abandon the party even in case of defeat, due to 'biological affiliation' with the pro-Western front.


The majority of the members of the leadership, however, supported Nika Melia's re-candidacy, with 39 votes out of 93, starting with coordinator Koba Nakopija together with the main party leaders. Melia proposed to huddle around the figure of the historical leader Saakašvili, who will soon be 55 years old, and the impression is that he succumbed to the pressure for early elections also to appease the overly radical thrusts, trusting in reappointment.


From the majority of the Georgian Dream come mocking comments about the 'endless chaos' of the opponents, with candidates coming and going, but National Movement deputy Anna Tsitlidze replied that 'our opponents know very well that the Movement is the bastion of Western values, and is the main obstacle to their desire to impose a Kremlin-led dictatorship'.  According to Tsitlidze, 'it is no wonder that there is a heated democratic competition within our party, which the Georgian Dream does not even know what it is, when their leader is simply announced on television'.


Many observers still believe that the internal elections will lead to the splitting and insignificance of the opposition, but surprises are always just around the corner in Georgia.