Battle for Citizens Union Party

Will the CUG Be For or Against the President?

The Citizens’ Union of Georgia (CUG) is preparing for changes. After party’s meeting on December 22, its members will significantly reduce. Opposition between the President and the reformers wing continues at the party scale.

On December 22 it will be decided who will have the party – President and his supporters or the reformers, who criticize the President’s policy. “The meeting will define the course of party as well. We will decide whether to be a pro-governmental party or to transform into the opposition union” – says Edward Surmanidze, Secretary General of the party. He mentioned that the party officials want to revise their duties.

At present Surmanidze is heading preparation committee for the party meeting. The committee has 35 members, including former ally of the reformers and now one of their major opponents, Governor of Kvemo Kartli region Levan Mamaladze. Mamaladze is heading the local regional organization of the party. He believes that the party authorities are ruling the CUG as a small party. Mamaladze is opposing the party officials and demands their resignation and even exclusion.

Mamaladze is governing the region with large Azeri population. During the last years officials of the neighboring Azerbaijan Republic showed a habit to visit this region before the parliamentary or presidential election in Georgia to call upon the local population to support the President and his party. The region usually gives the President and the party approximately 300 000 votes. These votes are decisive during the elections.

Mamaladze is not the only one to oppose the rulers of the party. The very man in support of whom the party was actually established in 1994 is among these opponents – Eduard Shevardnadze. President expresses clearly his attitude to the party ‘elite’ when resigned from party chairmanship and became an ordinary party member.

Almost all main groups of the Citizens Union are opposing Zurab Zhvania, Edward Surmanidze and their associates. However, their criticism is less connected with the party activities of the mentioned officials. The thing is that starting from 1999 the party, which came into the Parliament as a majority, has been dissolving into different factions. Members of these factions are opposing each other at the Parliament, though they still remain in the same party.

“There will be many serious questions at the meeting: how the party degraded to such a condition? Why the rating is mere 9 %? Why did the chairman resign? Why did the majority of the CUG in the Parliament dissolve etc” – says Irakli Gogava, Chairman of the “Alliance for New Georgia” faction.

The faction was established few months ago. Before that the members of the new faction were in the “Citizens Union” faction. Opposition between Zhvania and Mamaladze resulted in establishment of the “Alliance” faction. In 1999 while making election list of the “Citizens” Mamaladze recommended to include more candidates than necessary in order to ensure creation of the faction in the Parliament. Thus he has been granted political basis in the Parliament.

Other regions and some party leaders had their shares in the list as well. In 1999 First Deputy Chairman of the Party was a leader of the faction, however after its dissolution in 2001, Lekishvili refused to join any other new faction and engaged into activities towards creation of general council of independent parliamentarians.

There is nothing unusual in this, since Lekishvili himself is an independent MP elected in Ambrolauri district. Independent parliamentarians loyal to the President have already met once under Lekishvili’s leadership. Their next meeting is expected for December 22.

Members of so-called ‘initiative group’, which established the party in 1994 in support of President Shevardnadze, also are among the influential “Citizens”. These members always voted for anything Shevardnadze approved.

“I am going to attend the meeting as an ordinary member” – says former chairman of the Party. He will state his position during the speech at the party meeting on December 22. Before that the President only says “the Citizens Union has played its role in country’s life. It has the function now too, but the times have changed”.

by Giorgi Kalandadze, Civil Georgia