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Will Georgia's Main Opposition Party Boycott New Parliament?

  • Liz Fuller

United National Movement leader Davit Bakradze said only that the movement would resort to "all available, legitimate political means," including protest actions, taking the struggle to political institutions, and "working with our foreign partners."

United National Movement leader Davit Bakradze said only that the movement would resort to "all available, legitimate political means," including protest actions, taking the struggle to political institutions, and "working with our foreign partners."

While the ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia party garnered a majority in Georgia's October 8 parliamentary elections, the precise composition of the new legislature remains unclear pending runoffs in 50 of the 73 single-mandate constituencies.

Moreover, the opposition United National Movement is reportedly divided over whether its candidates should participate in those runoffs and thus tacitly bestow legitimacy on a vote some of its members claim was rigged. The movement's leaders are scheduled to meet late on October 11 to decide which course to adopt.

Meanwhile, the Central Election Commission has confirmed the distribution of the 77 parliament mandates allocated under the proportional system. Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia, which received 48.65 percent of the vote, will have 44; the United National Movement (27.12 percent), 27; and the populist, anti-Western Alliance of Patriots, (5 percent) six.

The two dozen remaining parties, including the Republicans, the Free Democrats, and the Industrialists, all of which were represented in the outgoing parliament, failed to receive the minimum 5 percent of the vote required to qualify for parliamentary representation.

As for the State for the People party founded early this year by opera singer Paata Burchuladze, which together with two partners won just 3.45 percent of the vote, it "ruined its excellent chances" of emerging as the third force in parliament by engaging in unseemly polemics with other parties during the election campaign, independent expert Zaal Anjaparidze told Interpressnews.ge on October 10.

In 2012, Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia and the United National Movement polled 56.67 and 43.33 percent of the vote, respectively.

With votes from individual precincts still being counted, and a repeat vote required in six precincts where the outcome has been annulled due to violations, Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia is also on course to win in 23 single-mandate constituencies, according to Civil.ge, giving it a total of 67 seats, nine short of a majority.

Meanwhile, as noted above, the United National Movement is divided over its future plans, as one of its leading members, Davit Darchiashvili, has publicly admitted. Writing on Facebook on October 10, the movement's erstwhile leader, former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili -- who was stripped of his Georgian citizenship late last year after being appointed governor of Odesa in Ukraine -- said he saw little point in the movement's candidates participating in a second round of voting, but that it is up to individual candidates to decide whether to do so.

Just days before the vote, Saakashvili had assured supporters that Georgian Dream would not be able to falsify the outcome of the vote, that the movement's victory was assured, and that he personally would arrive in Georgia by October 9 to celebrate that victory.

Outgoing National Movement parliament member Nodar Tsuleiskiri similarly argued that "the National Movement should leave alone in parliament the party that falsified the vote."

By contrast, senior movement member Giga Bokeria has come out against a boycott, arguing that even though the vote was "unfree and unfair," the movement owed it to its voters to take its place in parliament as "the only pro-Western, democratic, and efficient opposition force" in the country.

A second leading figure, Davit Bakradze, was less categorical, saying only that the movement would resort to "all available, legitimate political means," including protest actions, taking the struggle to political institutions, and "working with our foreign partners."

Bakradze said the movement would unveil its plan of action in the next few days, which suggests it may be waiting until the Central Election Commission sets a date for the runoff, which must take place within 25 days of the October 8 vote.

In contrast to the United National Movement, Alliance of Patriots co-leader David Tarkhan-Mouravi affirmed on October 11 that his party would participate in the workings of the new parliament, even though "we are not satisfied with the results" and "there are countless question marks" in light of the huge discrepancy between the number of the alliance's self-proclaimed supporters and the number of votes they were officially said to have received.

The strong showing by the Alliance of Patriots, on the one hand, is paralleled by the failure on the other hand of the unequivocally pro-Western Free Democrats and Republican Party to win representation, a failure that Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili has termed regrettable.

Outgoing parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili, a leading Republican Party member, finished in third place in one of Tbilisi's single-mandate constituencies with 11.7 percent of the vote. He has dismissed speculation that he is in line for a senior government post such as national security secretary.

Gia Volsky, who heads the Georgian Dream faction in the outgoing parliament, told journalists the party would be willing to continue to work together with Republicans Vakhtang Khmaladze and Nodar Ebanoidze and Free Democrat Viktor Dolidze, none of whom won reelection, but did not specify in what capacity.

The views expressed in this blog item do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.

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