Mikheil Saakashvili, a presidential candidate, told a crowd in a Tbilisi suburb that Georgia’s reunification and economic future would be determined in the January 5 presidential elections.
Saakashvili was speaking on December 1 at a pop conceret in the Varketili suburb. The performers, who have been engaged in Saakashvili’s reelection campaign sang “you are my hero; I offer you my hand and you will win” as the former president stood with them on the stage.
Saakashvili’s address was aired live by Mze TV, while the Georgian Public Broadcaster and Rustavi 2 TV showed excerpts.
“I really believe that the January 5 elections will be held normally and they will give us a ticket on a train taking us to Sokhumi [the capital of breakaway Abkhazia],” Saakashvili told the concert goers. “I will return these people [internally displaced persons (IDPs)] to their homes.”
IDP return has been a major component of Saakashvili’s election campaign. On November 28 he told a group of Abkhaz IDPs: “In the nearest future, I mean in the next few months, I am not saying years, we, along with the international community, will create conditions for your return to Abkhazia in safety and dignity.”
Speaking in Varketili on December 1 Saakashvili dismissed rumours that he was losing public confidence. “Just look at the thousands of people gathered here. Is this not support?” he said.
Earlier on December 1 Saakashvili was in the western Georgian province of Samegrelo, where he also spoke about the return to Abkhazia. Speaking in the town of Tsalenjikha, he said: “I see many displaced persons from Abkhazia here. Abkhazia is my home. As long as you are internally displaced persons, so am I," Saakashvili said. "But I believe deeply that if we gain a new mandate on January 5 and I am sure that we will gain it together, if we become active, if we avoid provocations, if we prevent unrest and coup attempts, I am confident that we will create all the necessary conditions for the return of internally displaced persons to their homes.”
Saakashvili also promised to raise pensions to a minimum USD 100 a month. “We will do our best to ensure that under stable conditions the minimal pension will rise to USD 100. I will keep all these promises, as I have done before,” he said.
Saakashvili also promised state-funded rent allowance for poorer students from the provinces attending university in Tbilisi. In addition, he said he would, if re-elected, provide state scholarships to 1,000 students studying at foreign universities.