Tbilisi's political class is awaiting eagerly -- or anxiously -- the return of former UN Ambassador Irakli Alasania next week. Alasania resigned his post on December 4 and is widely seen as a potential successor to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who is coming under increased pressure from a newly energized opposition.
Unlike much of Georgia's political elite, Alasania impressed many in Georgia and the West with his steady performance during Georgia's war with Russia in August.
RFE/RL's Georgian Service reports that the leaders of the opposition Republican and New Rightist parties recently visited Alasania in New York to try to persuade him to lead their newly formed coalition, which is banking on early elections and hopes to unseat Saakashvili.
Upon returning to Tbilisi, they were upbeat about that prospect, but Alasania has yet to speak on the matter publicly.
And it wasn't only opposition leaders who are eager to make a pilgrimage to see Alasania.
While in New York on other business, David Bakradze, the speaker of Georgia's parliament and a close Saakashvili ally, also made a point of visiting the outgoing UN Ambassador. No details have emerged from that meeting.
Alasania was originally due to return to Tbilisi on December 15, but delayed his homecoming so he could attend a planned meeting with with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today.
Adding to the air of anticipation, Alasania turns 35-years-old on December 21, making him old enough to seek the presidency
-- Brian Whitmore