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‘Think-Tank’ Republicans to Quit Ruling Coalition
/ 23 Jun.'04 / 18:36
Tea Gularidze, Civil Georgia

Republican leader accuses former allies of
vote-rigging.

President Mikheil Saakashvili won a landslide victory in Adjara. His political allies secured an absolute majority in the Autonomy's legislature during elections held on June 20. This success, however, was overshadowed by the split of the Republican Party from Saakashvili's National Movement. Nonetheless, political analysts suggest that this disagreement between the former allies will not affect the relative power of the ruling National Movement-Democrats.

The Republicans are in a coalition with the ruling party in the Georgian Parliament but ran alone for seats in the Adjarian legislative body, the Supreme Council, hoping to capitalize on the popularity of their leader, David Berdzenishvili, in Adjara. The results were disappointing, as the Republicans secured only 9% of the vote which secured the party only two seats in the local parliament. The remaining 28 seats went to the pro-Saakashvili Victories Adjara party. 

Following the elections, Berdzenishvili accused the authorities, consisting of his party colleagues, of “mass vote-rigging.” 

“The government failed the test for democracy in Adjara, as the elections were totally falsified. Saakashvili-Victorious Adjara [party backed by President Saakashvili] used almost the same methods during the voting which were used by [ex-leader of Adjara] Aslan Abashidze’s Revival Union. We do not want to have any links with this party and intend to leave it in the near future,” Davit Berdzenishvili said on June 21.

Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanazdze, who is one of the leaders of the National Movement-Democrats, responded to the Republican allegations by saying that their decision to run alone in the elections was “a mistake.”

“I think we should revise our cooperation with the Republican Party. It is an abnormal situation: the Republicans are our allies in the Parliament, while they act as our opposition in Adjara. We should deal with this situation,” MP Nodar Grigalashvili of ruling party told reporters on June 21.

The impending split would not be the first one for the relatively small Republican Party, but it could be the most bitter, as it takes place over the main cornerstone of their party’s agenda - Adjara. The Republican Party was the only opposition to the ex-Adjarian leader Aslan Abashidze from the early years of his rule in the Autonomous Republic and joined Mikheil Saakashvili’s National Movement in 2002 in hopes of solving the Abashidze problem once and for all.

As descendant of the intellectual-dissident circles of 1980s, the Republicans lack strong party infrastructure but boast think-tank style and intellectual capabilities. Forming a coalition with a powerful political force seemed to be the only way for the Republicans to get mandates in the Parliament.

Currently, the Republican Party has six MPs in the Georgian Parliament through the party-list of the ruling party: Davit Berdzenishvili, Ivliane Khaindrava, Levan Berdzenishvili, Roman Gotsiridze, Teimuraz Negadze and Nugzar Mgeladze. Two of the Republican MPs chair the parliamentary committees - Levan Berdzenishvili, who chairs the Committee on Science and Education, and Roman Gotsiridze, who chairs the Committee for Budget and Finances.

The first cracks in the alliance between Saakashvili and Berdzenishvili appeared after the National Movement formed a coalition with the United Democrats and moved to the centrist platform. There has been a history of political confrontation between Berdzenishvili and the current Prime-Minister and leader of the United Democrats, Zurab Zhvania, who the Republicans accuse of employing of Machiavellian tactics and behind-the-scenes dealmaking.

“It was quite clear that the unity of the National Movement and the Republican Party would not last long. However, none of them will suffer seriously from this separation,” said Ia Antadze, a political analyst at the Radio Liberty, during talks with Civil Georgia.

She ruled out disintegration of the ruling party as a result of the recent split. “I think that any discussions over disintegration of the ruling party are untimely. This will not occur so quickly, since the ruling party is strong enough at the moment,” Antadze added.

It remains to be seen whether this political split, initiated by the Republican leader David Berdzenishvili, would be endorsed by his colleagues, who would lose their chairmanships of the committees should the split be officially confirmed. This loss of leadership within the two committees would, objectively, be a serious loss of capacity to the parliament in general.

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