Former Georgian Ambassador to the UN Irakli Alasania was nominated
on March 4 as a candidate for the upcoming Tbilisi mayoral election. Alasania said he will launch his election campaign immediately, as there is no time to continue "endless talks" on how to select a single opposition mayoral candidate to challenge incumbent Mayor Gigi Ugulava.
Just eight days earlier, on February 24, Alasania had met with former Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli, former opposition presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze, and Conservative Party leader Kakha Kukava to discuss
how to select a single mayoral candidate. But on February 28, Alasania said
he had no intention of cooperating with Noghaideli. "Any political force that will stand beside us is acceptable to us except for one: Noghaideli's party," Alasania said in a televised interview.
Alasania implicitly admitted on February 28 that he had made a tactical error by insisting on not excluding Noghaideli from the opposition deliberations. "When you move towards selecting a single leader, it's always a risky path," he said. The heads of the New Rightists and the Republican Party, both members of Alasania's Alliance for Georgia, had vehemently opposed any cooperation
with Noghaideli, who has been subject to constant vilification by the Georgian authorities for his recent visits to Moscow to meet with top Russian officials.
Alasania also said on February 28 he would not participate in proposed U.S.-style "primaries" to select the single opposition mayoral candidate.
Those opposition parties who first floated the idea of primaries do not intend to abandon it, however. On March 8, the Conservative Party, the People's Party, and Noghaideli's For a Fair Georgia, together with the smaller and less well-known Party of the Future, Christian Georgia, and Mamulishvilebi (Sons of the Fatherland) released a joint statement outlining their future actions, Caucasus Press reported. They propose selecting the candidate for Tbilisi mayor by means of "primaries," and candidates for the 50-person city council by means of a public opinion poll.
The three parties said the choice of opposition mayoral candidate will be announced at an assembly at the Sports Palace in Tbilisi on April 9, the date the opposition launched open-ended protests
last year in the hope of forcing President Mikheil Saakashvili to resign. They again called on all interested political groups to join that initiative. But the director of the Sports Palace officially denied having reached an agreement with the opposition on allowing them to use that facility on April 9, Caucasus Press reported.
Speaking at a press conference on March 8, Noghaideli said the possibility of all opposition parties aligning behind a single candidate "no longer exists," and he accused Alasania
and his party of "destroying" opposition unity.
At the same time, Noghaideli said he is still prepared to back Alasania as the single opposition candidate if public opinion polls suggest he has the greatest popular support.
People's Party leader Koba Davitashvili for his part pointed out that the idea of conducting opinion polls to determine which candidates stood the greatest chance of success originated with Alasania's alliance, which has now "withdrawn that proposal."
Former human rights ombudsman Sozar Subari, a close associate of Alasania, explained to RFE/RL that when he first floated the idea of public opinion polls, it was on condition that neither Noghaideli nor the parties that support him should be included.
To date, five candidates
in addition to Alasania have said they hope to participate in the mayoral race, the date for which has not yet been set. They are former Georgian State Oil Company head Giorgi Chanturia (nominated by the Christian Democratic group (part of the parliamentary minority faction); former legislator and beer magnate Gogi Topuria, co-founder of the Industry Will Save Georgia group; Nika Ivanishvili, who served in the early 1990s as head of the traffic police and recently founded his own People's Democratic Party; Tamaz Vashadze, who served briefly as Tbilisi mayor in the early 1990s; and David Yakobidze, who served as finance minister in the early 1990s when Eduard Shevardnadze was still president.
Yakobidze was nominated
by legislator Gia Tortladze's Democratic Party of Georgia. Tortladze heads the Powerful Georgia minority parliamentary faction.