The ruling party, National Movement, formally nominated on April 26 Tbilisi’s incumbent mayor Gigi Ugulava as a candidate to stand for re-election in May 30 local elections.
“For next 34 days we will try to explain to Tbilisites what we plan to do, based on what we have already been doing. Our promises will be business-like and realistic,” Ugulava told journalists after his nomination was submitted to Central Election Commission.
On the same day he addressed an outdoor rally in the suburb of Tbilisi, marking a formal launch of his campaign and said in an assertive speech that tackling of unemployment would be a focus of his election program.
“For next four years, Tbilisi Mayor’s Office and each of its structural unit will turn into kind of an employment bureau and Tbilisi mayor will be an advocate for employment,” Ugulava told supporters gathered in one of the neighborhoods of Gldani district of the capital city.
“Tbilisi needs a mayor, who has already done much, but who acknowledges that a lot still remains to be done,” he said, reciting the ruling party’s campaign slogan “A Lot Remains to Be Done".
In the speech he said the Tbilisi mayoral office was about addressing the city’s everyday needs and not about “political ambitious”.
“Tbilisi does not need a mayor, for whom mayorship is only a [political] trampoline and nothing more. Tbilisi does not need a mayor, who will turn the city into the center of political strife. Tbilisi needs a hardworking mayor, who will turn Tbilisi into the employment center. Tbilisi needs a mayor, who has already done much, but who acknowledges that much is still to be done,” he said.
Ugulava, one of those few senior officials who are regarded to be part of so called Saakashvili's inner circle, has kept low political profile in recent months - shunning away from making public political statements, but instead has been active in creating an image of an effective executive.
The same stance is adhered by Christian-Democratic Movement’s (CDM) mayoral candidate, former chief of state oil corporation, Giorgi Chanturia, who says that he is not a politician at all, making focus on his managerial credentials.
Meanwhile, Irakli Alasania, leader of Alliance for Georgia and a mayoral candidate, says that opposition’s success in the local elections would trigger confidence among voters that “change of government through elections is possible” not only on local, but on national level as well and the May 30 should serve as a starting point for that “major change”.
This approach was also attacked by President Saakashvili, who is currently in the United States and who endorsed Ugulava’s nomination on April 26.
“There are some people saying that these elections are only a launch pad to change the government in Georgia after a certain period of time. I really don’t want Tbilisites to live on a launch pad of someone’s political ambitious or in a politician’s catapult,” he said in an interview with Rustavi 2 TV, aired on April 26.
In what appeared to be a reference to Irakli Alasania, Saakashvili said: “There are some other candidates, who beautifully plump their lips and say ‘look at me, how handsome I am; is it possible not to vote for such a guy?’ If it, the beauty, is enough to build the country, then we should elect [a Georgian actress] Nanka Kalatozishvili as Tbilisi mayor.”
He also criticized CDM’s mayoral candidate, Giorgi Chanturia, for promising a significant cut in gas and electricity tariffs and free of charge water consumption.
“There are some candidates, who promise gas and water at very small prices… We can vote for them, but we should understand that in that case we will have no water and gas anymore,” Saakashvili said.
He also said that he was very much interested in having Ugulava re-elected, as he did not want “to waste away” what had already been done in the capital city.
“We are on the right track,” he said. “All Tbilisites should ask themselves: is Tbilisi is a better city than it was four years ago? Do they like the current reconstruction process, which is acknowledged by everybody, including by opponents? Do they want to live in the city, which will be one of the most comfortable and beautiful cities among the European ones? If the response is positive, then they should support the National Movement and its mayoral candidate Gigi Ugulava. I think that we have very wise voters and they will make right decisions,” Saakashvili said.