The six moderate Georgian opposition parties that sought unsuccessfully over the past seven months to reach agreement on electoral reform with the ruling United National Movement (EEM) have formed a loose coalition, named Free Choice, to continue their campaign for political liberalization.
Leaders of the six parties -- the Republican, Conservative, and People's parties, the National Forum, the Free Democrats, and Georgia's Way -- unveiled their future strategy to a packed indoor baseball stadium in Tbilisi on July 8.
They said they now plan to expand on their original objective of amending the election law to remove the built-in advantages enjoyed by the ruling party. Their future goals are changing not just the election law, but the entire political environment, and securing a coalition parliamentary majority. At the same time, they made clear that Free Choice is not, and should not be regarded as, an election bloc. They nonetheless stressed their readiness to reach a "reasonable compromise" on ideological issues.
"The coalition takes upon itself political responsibility for changing the current authorities by means of elections, creating a coalition government, putting an end to the era of post-Soviet neo-Bolshevism, establishing a multi-party democracy based on the supremacy of the law, and securing Georgia's integration into Europe," the six men said in a joint statement.
In order to achieve those objectives, the six parties plan to conduct a nationwide campaign in the run-up to the parliamentary elections due in October 2012, drawing on all available informational resources. They also plan to set about drafting policy programs, including on economic and social issues, for implementation in the event that they do win a majority in the next parliament.
Both Free Democrats leader Irakli Alasania and Republican Party chairman David Usupashvili were quoted as affirming that "elections are won by a million votes, not by a million laris" -- an allusion to the controversial EEM proposal to allocate to all opposition parties that poll the minimum 5 percent of the vote required to win representation in the new parliament 1 million laris ($597,943) to cover their election campaign expenses.
Usupashvili accused the New Rightists and the Christian Democratic Movement, which had also taken part in the talks and accepted the most recent amendments proposed by the EEM late last month, of caving in to "blackmail" from the authorities, Caucasus Press reported on July 8.
Usupashvili said those proposals would perpetuate the EEM's parliamentary majority and allocate "only decorative functions" to the opposition. The Christian Democrats currently hold seven of the total 150 parliament mandates.