MP Giorgi Vashadze has quit the United National Movement (UNM) opposition party criticizing it for, as he put it, closed style of governance by a narrow circle of leadership.
UNM responded that MP Vashadze decided to quit after failure to secure place in top ten of MP candidates the party will nominate for the parliamentary elections in October.
“[Ex-PM Bidzina] Ivanishvili’s informal rule should come to the ended. Only energetic, purpose-oriented and free force of new generation can do it,” MP Vashadze said on May 5 while announcing about his decision to quit the UNM.
“Our voters were expecting innovations, new ideas and initiatives from the United National Movement, but it never happened,” he said. “Instead of vibrant, open organism, we received the closed system of governance wherein leadership is carried out from offices and which, by its nature, is in itself an ally of Ivanishvili’s harmful governance, and which serves only personal interests of one small group of the party.”
Such type of governance, he said, “has specific names: Giga Bokeria, [Mikheil] Machavariani, Khatuna Gogorishvili, [Giorgi] Gabashvili and Davit Bakradze” – referring to some of the key figures from the UNM.
Vashadze described UNM parliamentary minority leader MP Davit Bakradze as “façade” for other party leaders he listed above.
His announcement about withdrawing from UNM came five days after the opposition party laid out rules for compiling its party list of MP candidates for the October parliamentary elections.
“I decline a guaranteed seat in the future Parliament through the superficially renewed [UNM’s] party list. I am launching setting up of a new movement, the key principle of which will be bringing in new persons in the politics, with new political culture, new ideas and new mechanisms of decision making,” MP Vashadze said.
UNM has denied Vashadze had any guaranteed place in the top ten of its party list and accused him of being “grist for Ivanishvili’s mill.”
“Vashadze had an ambition to be in the top ten of party list, which was not accepted. Quitting the party because of that reason is completely irresponsible,” UNM’s secretary general, MP Sergo Ratiani, said.
UNM also released a written statement, attributed to former president Mikheil Saakashvili, who before losing Georgian citizenship chaired the UNM party. The statement reads that “noisy withdrawal” from UNM by some of its members is “part of oligarch Ivanishvili’s game”.
It says that after failing to “destroy” UNM, Ivanishvili is now trying to downgrade “the main opposition” party by convincing some of its individual members to quit the party and by “financing new movements.”
“I am confident that despite of these tricks, the UNM will only strengthen before the elections and consequently Ivanishvili and his satellites will be defeated,” reads the statement attributed to Saakashvili.
More than a dozen MPs have left the former ruling UNM party since the 2012 parliamentary elections, but only few of them were high-profile figures of the party – Vashadze is among them.
Before becoming a lawmaker through UNM’s party list in 2012, Vashadze served as deputy justice minister when the UNM was in government; in this capacity he was overseeing development of Public Service Halls – one-stop shops where citizen can get multiple services from various state agencies. Along with being in UNM’s party list in 2012 elections, he also ran as a majoritarian MP candidate in Tbilisi’s Isani single-mandate constituency, but lost the race to Georgian Dream’s candidate.
The first time when UNM’s high-profile MPs quit the party was in May 2015, when Zurab Japaridze, Pavle Kublashvili, Goga Khachidze, and Giorgi Meladze left the party. The four MPs then formed a new party – New Political Center-Girchi, which plans to run independently in the upcoming parliamentary elections.