Split in Georgian pro-opposition party
    Experts explain the reason to Caliber.Az

    INTERVIEWS  11 December 2023 - 15:43

    Samir Ibrahimov

    Alarming trends are observed in the Georgian main opposition party - the United National Movement, created once by ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili. The politicians who represented the party in municipal councils have recently left it.

    Most members of the district office of the party in Kaspi town have left the party, the Georgian Public Broadcaster reports. Six MPs also decided to leave the political association of the local city assembly from the National Movement faction.

    Former members of the United National Movement noted that the reason for leaving the party is its weakening amid unfulfilled promises of the new management.

    Meanwhile, the MPs do not intend to give up their mandates and will continue opposition activity as independent MPs together with the team of former member of the United National Movement Nika Melia, one of the members of the Tbilisi City Council (Sakrebulo) Giorgi Sharipashvili said.

    Ten members of the United National Movement faction of the Khobi Municipality Assembly announced about withdrawal from the United National Movement at a special briefing on December 6. In total, 11 people represented the United National Movement in the municipal body.

    Some 14 representatives of the United National Movement faction in the Zugdidi city assembly left the party on December 5. One of MPs Maya Kalandia noted that the United National Movement had an undemocratic rule, which resulted in such a decision. In total, there were 22 members from the United National Movement in the Zugdidi City Council.  

    Seven out of 13 members of the United National Movement in the Batumi City Council left the party on December 4. Member of the Supreme Council of Adjara Georgi Kirtadze said that despite repeated attempts, they were unable to establish relations with the new leadership of the United National Movement.  

    Who or what is behind such events? Well-known Georgian experts expressed their opinions on this issue at the request of Caliber.Az.

    Political analyst, director of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) Kakha Gogolashvili noted that there has been a split in the United National Movement for more than two years.

    “The main tensions are observed between the former and current party chairmen – Nikanor Melia and Levan Khabeishvili. There are no fundamental differences in political issues, but there are personal reasons and differences in tactical issues. Both leaders tried to gain Saakashvili's support and, apparently, he supported Khabeishvili. Saakashvili has recently prepared a text on party unity, which Nika Melia did not join, and for this reason, Khabeishvili declared him expelled from the party, although formally he did not have the right to do this. Afterwards this, most of Melia’s supporters began to leave the party, and today Melia himself left it,” the political analyst said.

    The version about the involvement of the current authorities in these processes is not popular in society, he said.

    “People believe that there was a struggle between two factions. One is informally headed by former high-ranking representatives of the United National Movement David Kezerashvili and Vano Merabishvili, while Levan Khabeishvili is their protege. Melia is against such informal interference in the affairs of the party and that is why he was driven away. He tried to enlist the support of Saakashvili, but, apparently, he did not support him. Melia is expected to create a new party consisting of former members of the United National Movement and try to attract some people to vote for the United National Movement in the upcoming elections,” Gogolashvili added.

    Meanwhile, political analyst, director of the Caucasian Center of Islamic Research, expert at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation Shota Akhaidze noted that in fact, the process of disintegration of the United National Movement began in 2014.

    “Then well-known politicians, namely, Giga Bokeria, ex-mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava, Sergi Kopanadze, and other leaders, left the party. Then former Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze left the party after the presidential elections, in which he was a candidate from the United National Movement. However, the situation aggravated after the appearance of Nika Melia because he was gaining a certain authority among members of the United National Movement and the opposition members. This factor turned out to be unacceptable to Saakashvili. So the second split occurred in the party in 2019.

    This split intensified after Saakashvili’s arrival and arrest. The ex-president was worried that Melia would take his party, all voters, and become the central player in the United National Movement and among opposition members, and then be able to get ahead of him. That is, intrigues within the party resulted in the current situation, when MPs are already leaving the United National Movement,” the expert said.

     He noted that Levan Khabeishvili, who is Saakashvili’s confidant, and does not take a single step without his instructions, is unacceptable to them.

    “He recruited his own team, which also coordinates actions with the Ukrainian leadership. There is the factor of Ukrainian politicians Davyd Arakhamia, Oleksii Honcharenko, etc. They are more subjective and express the private will of Saakashvili’s family, Temur Alasania [Saakashvili’s uncle]. As a result, Khabeishvili became unacceptable to many people who sympathised with Nika Melia. That is, they are destroying themselves without the ruling Georgian Dream party. It is strange but all this happens without bribery, external interference. I know the internal Georgian politics well. Of course, representatives of the ruling party work with some politicians of the United National Movement, but this is not a determining factor in this process. This is internal party discontent, related to the upcoming elections. Nevertheless, the Americans communicate with Levan Khabeishvili and his people. They are holding meetings in the Senate, in the US Congress, in various organisations there. They don't worry about the split. However, the question is, will such a team of the United National Movement be able to gain the required minimum votes to enter the Georgian future parliament?” Akhaidze added.


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