Secretary general of President Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM) party and ex-PM Vano Merabishvili said that UNM’s major goal now was to “seize the initiative”, “to weaken” the new government and not to allow it implement its plan directed towards “weakening of Georgia”.
“We have whole set of options for actions through which will weaken this government and you will see it soon,” Merabishvili said to applause at a meeting with a group of UNM activists and supporters on February 1 in the party headquarters in Tbilisi, which was live streamed over the internet.
He said that UNM should launch “a serious work in order to return back into power in a certain form”. He, however, also stressed that even after the return into power, UNM would not be able to have as much power as it had over the past nine years when it was in the government. “Because Georgia has changed,” he said.
“I say it directly: we cannot give this [new] government [of PM Bidzina Ivanishvili] four years… It does not mean that we will stage a coup and overthrow it, but we should not let this government to implement the plan it has – to weaken Georgia,” Merabishvili said.
“It does not mean that parliamentary elections should necessarily be held in order to come into power. There are various forms of coming into power: public scrutiny; weakening of those state institutions, which are repressive; to win over [Georgian Dream supporters]. In 2003, before the Rose Revolution, we [UNM] were already partly in power – we were in control of the [Tbilisi] City Hall, we had initiative in the street too [referring to staging street protest rallies],” he said.
“We should start returning back into power in a certain form and seizing initiative,” Merabishvili continued. “Our task is to take the initiative in respect of [staging] protest rallies and picketing and then, or in parallel to it, engaging in other processes; so we should step-by-step push this government and block destructive actions of this government or to accelerate the change of government. Time will show, as well as resources available to us, in what form it will be done.”
“Today we are preoccupied by maintaining resources which we had and by encouraging people; now its winter and it’s early for mass street rallies. Believe me we have whole set of options for actions through which will weaken this government and you will soon see it,” he said.
Merabishvili said that he was “surprisingly glad that despite of lots of pressure” UNM was still in control of many local councils, Sakrebulos, and local self-governance bodies across the country, among them in Tbilisi, Rustavi and Kutaisi.
Merabishvili said that there was “a high probability” that UNM would lose upcoming MP by-elections and presidential elections later this year, but UNM would run in all these elections because it would be a chance to consolidate the party.
“I think that the main battle will be next year during the local elections,” Merabishvili said.
He said that situations was yet unfavorable for the UNM, but "it's changing" gradually. He said that UNM had little chances of success in the upcoming elections because “the society is still in euphoria”.
“You may notice that people around you still have dollars in their eyes,” Merabishvili said, suggesting that majority of voters were still under the illusion that billionaire PM Ivanishvili would distribute his wealth to the people. In this context he also said that Georgia “withstood many tests” including during the August, 2008 war, but failed in the recent test when, as he put it, voters were “lured by money”. “Georgia is a poor country and dollars confused the society,” he said and added that voters turned out at polling stations “with their eyes darkened by money.”
Merabishvili said that the new government was mainly preoccupied by mounting pressure on UNM and former government officials, including through initiating criminal charges against them. He said that UNM should make the government to stop this process and then “we will go on the offensive.”