Irakli Alasania, leader of Our Georgia-Free Democrats (OGFD), said on February 28 he would not take part in potential preliminary elections, or primaries to select a single opposition candidate, and also strongly denied any intention to cooperate with ex-PM Zurab Nogaideli's party, Movement for Fair Georgia.
The announcement brings Alasania's party back in line with Republican and New Rights parties - OGFD's partners from Alliance for Georgia.
"We have full agreement with our partners [New Rights and Republicans], that we will not be in any coalition or in political process together with Nogaideli's party. My step [to engaging in talks] was made in address of those parties, which have nominated candidates for the Tbilisi mayoral race," Alasania said.
He was referring to Party of People and Conservative Party, whose leaders, Koba Davitashvili and Zviad Dzidziguri, respectively, said they would run for the mayoral race. The both parties have been pushing for holding preliminary elections, or primaries, between the opposition candidates to select a single candidate. Although having no candidate for Tbilisi mayoral race, Nogaideli's party joined this initiative of holding the primaries, hence committing itself to support a candidate, who wins potential primaries. Party of People and Conservative Party said for number of times in recent days that they would not distance themselves from Nogaideli's party.
"Together with our political partners, we are firmly standing on the same road of going into elections for victory; any political force, which will stand beside us, is acceptable for us, except of one - Nogaideli's party," Alasania told Georgian public broadcaster's weekly program, Accents, on February 28.
He repeated for several times during the televised interview that this stance on Nogaideli was his party's "clear-cut" position - a contrast to remarks made by him and other senior OGFD members in recent days, who were saying that "everyone", including Nogaideli's party, could be part of this process of selecting a single candidate. Such position was in conflict with the one of New Rights and Republicans.
Alasania said that his decision to engage in consultations on selecting a single candidate, which put him at odds with his political partners, was "a risky step." Republican and New Rights parties said it was Alasania's "mistake".
"When you move towards defining a single leader its always a risky path; I have undertaken a risky step, but this step will bring result. We will participate in the elections with united front - not through eclectic unity, but based on unity of those political parties, which share common values," Alasania said.
"Whether this risky step was a mistake or not, we can judge it based on results and these results will become clear in nearest days," he said without elaboration.
He also said that his decision "has added dynamics" to political developments and it would help "to filter" political landscape on the opposition front.
"It will now become clear who is standing with whom and who will lead the society towards the victory," Alasania added. "Someone had to take this step."
He also expressed confidence that the result, which he planned to achieve with this step, would help him to win back support of those voters, who were frustrated with his decision.
Sozar Subari, ex-public defender, who is an individual member of the Alliance for Georgia and its co-chairman running for the Tbilisi City Council chairmanship, told the public broadcaster's same program on February 28 that Alasania's decision to seek unity with other opposition parties running in the election was "doomed for a failure." He said that it was clear now that there was no need for "ephemera unity."
Although acknowledging that Alasania's decision could have been harmful for the Alliance for Georgia, Subari also said such move had a potential of turning into "a surprise positive" trend for the coalition.
"Those voters who support Alliance for Georgia, but at the same time thought that larger opposition unity was needed, saw that the real unity, which is based on values and which is really strong, was in danger because of this search for ephemera unity and this situation can help to further mobilize our supporters. On the other hand this situation has also demonstrated that instead of running after ephemera unity, we should support a real political force, a real unity based on shared values," he said referring to Alliance for Georgia.
He also said that he was against of cooperation not only with Nogaideli's party, but also with other political parties, which would refuse to distance themselves from Movement for Fair Georgia.
Although Alasania said in his televised interview that his decision was addressed to Conservative Party and Party of People, as a Republican Party member, Davit Berdzenishvili, said recently Alasania mainly aimed at gaining support of Levan Gachechiladze, a leader of public movement Defend Georgia. Gachechiladze, who was a presidential candidate nominated by a large group of key opposition parties in 2008 elections, has yet to announce about his plans in respect of upcoming local elections. He is viewed as a potential mayoral candidate. Gachechiladze, who kept low-profile in recent months, is now also engaged in talks on selecting a single opposition mayoral candidate. He says that his role is to be "a bridge" between the various opposition parties engaged in these talks and he would agree "on any decision" or candidate endorsed by most of the opposition parties. Gachechiladze was criticized by some opposition figures, mainly from the Republican Party, for delaying to give his clear-cut position about the upcoming elections.