Alliance for Georgia announced on September 22 that its leader Irakli Alasania would run for Tbilisi mayor’s post in local elections expected to take place on May 30, 2010.
The Alliance, which unites three opposition parties – Alasania’s Our Georgia-Free Democrats; Republican and New Rights – also said Sozar Subari, a former public defender, would be its nominee for the Tbilisi City Council (Sakrebulo) chairmanship.
Subari, whose term in office as public defender expired this month, announced about joining the Alliance for Georgia on September 22.
Subari told journalists that the Alliance for Georgia was “accepting the challenge” put forth by the authorities and would run in the local elections.
Irakli Alasania said that “the only democratic way” to change the government was through elections.
“We are against of any revolutionary change of the authorities and we will oppose those who will argue in favor of this way,” he said.
“Our major goal is to change the current electoral system and to come into power through elections,” Alasania added.
The Alliance for Georgia this week has formally joined an inter-party working group designed to reshape the current election system by elaborating amendments to the election code.
The group was established with the facilitation of U.S. National Democratic Institute in March, 2009 – less than a month before a group of non-parliamentary opposition parties launched street protest rallies. At the time that group of opposition parties, including Alliance for Georgia refused to participate in the group, snubbed the offer to join the electoral working group.
Although President Saakashvili offered to hold local elections on May 30, 2010, instead of late next year, the date has yet to be formally set.
Not much is yet clear about under what type of system the local elections will be held. The only commitment made by the authorities is that the capital city’s mayor will be elected directly, instead of current rule when an elected City Council elects a mayor. The direct election will most likely apply only to Tbilisi, but no final decision is yet taken.
As some figures from Alliance for Georgia say, one of their key priority in the working group on electoral reform, will be not to allow introduction of a so called winner-takes-all system in the Tbilisi mayor’s election, wherein a candidate with most of the votes and not necessarily with over 50% is declared a winner. The opposition would argue in favor of a system when a run-off will be required if none of the candidates garner more than 50% of votes in the first round.
Although Tbilisi is regarded as the opposition’s stronghold, the ruling party is more likely to succeed in case of winner-takes-all system in the face of the fragmented opposition with various parties having their own candidates.
But so far Irakli Alasania is the only politician who has publicly announced about his intention to run. After the announcement Alasania met with Levan Gachechiladze, an opposition politician, who is now a leader of public movement Defend Georgia. Gachechiladze, a former opposition presidential candidate, is regarded as a potential candidate for the Tbilisi mayoral office, but who has yet to take a final decision on the matter.
The Conservative Party on September 11 offered non-parliamentary opposition parties to select a single leader through “internal elections,” or as it put it, through “primaries.”
“No matter which strategy we will choose – resumption of protest rallies or participation in the elections - the setting up of an opposition alliance will be much more effective in struggle against the authorities,” the Conservative Party said in a call mainly left ignored by other opposition parties.
Another key issue expected to top the agenda of the working group on election system reform will be the rule of composition of Central Election Commission and lower level election administrations.