Majority, Reinvented

Big Mess before the Locals

A phantom of the Citizens Union has evaporated in the parliament. Redistribution of the committee chairman seats has brought pro-presidential factions in control, while former CUG leader Zurab Zhvania’s boat seems sinking. Some say the days of the new pro-presidential majority are dawning, but nobody knows whether it would survive the locals.

Starting from the days when the “reformers” team was firmly on top of the presidential Citizens Union (CUG) it also held most of the committee chairman posts. But the drift between the president and the “reformers” was growing as Zurab Zhvania and his supporters accused president of inhibiting the reforms and fomenting corruption.

As a result, Shevardnadze resigned form the chairmanship of the Citizens’ Union of Georgia Party last September, which brought about the collapse of the CUG as a ruling coalition.

However, ensuing confusion within the opposition allowed Zhvania to cling to the most of the committee posts, as Nino Burdjanadze was elected Chairperson of the Parliament in a dramatic contest with Vazha Lordkipanidze, a candidate with presidents blessing.

But right before the local elections scheduled for June 2, things begin to look much less promising for the former “reformers” of CUG. They have lost the control over the party and the chance to be represented in locals as the CUG as a result of the party intrigues initiated by the pro-presidential governor Levan Mamaladze. As a result Zhvania and his supporters are going into locals under the banners of a political unknown Christian-Conservative party and their chances for success are slim.

Last week Zhvania’s team was also hard-hit within the parliament, as the New Rights faction managed to 147 MP signatures to initiate the process of redistributing the committee chairmen seats among the parliamentary factions that mushroomed on the remains of CUG.

During the Parliamentary session of May 10, all chairmen of the parliamentary committees resigned, except Giorgi Baramidze, Chairman of the Defense and Security Committee, who refused to resign voluntarily.

He was dismissed from his post in result of voting. 118 MPs voted for his resignation, 27 votes were against. After the voting, David Tkeshelashvili of the “Citizens’ Union”, said the new parliamentary majority, has formed. It is headed by the New Rights faction and supported by the factions Socialist, Tanadgoma, Alliance for New Georgia and Abkhazeti.
The Reformers argue that this new majority is being controlled by the State Chancellery, in particular by President Shevardnadze and State Minister Avtandil Jorbenadze. From the factions that overturned former “reformers” are pro-Presidential Tanadgoma and Alliance for New Georgia that were created after the rift between Zhvania and Shevardnadze became inevitable. The New Rights also were the members of CUG, but left the party as their leadership was challenged by young and ambitious “reformers.”

The New Rights themselves avoid statements that the new majority has been established in the Parliament. “We are in the opposition to come to power and when we will, we will tell you about establishment of the new majority,” said Levan Gachechiladze, one of the leaders of the New Rights on May 10.

Along with the committee chairmen, the process of redistribution will also involve the deputy chairperson of the parliament; chairpersons of the sub-committees and vice-speakers, i.e. all parliamentary officials except the Chairperson.

Georgian parliament is heading into the local with quite new and volatile parliament, where pro-presidential, but otherwise quite divided factions dominate the scene. It remains to be seen whether Zurab Zhvania would prove capable of re-grouping to recapture some of the vital positions, but one thing is clear, the days of former CUG “stars” are finally over and they would need to shape their future as the opposition force.

On this front, Zhvania is a late mover – Mikheil Saakashvili, former Minister of Justice and MP has already built a radical opposition force “New National Movement – Democratic Front” which many analysts thing seems posed to perform strongly in the locals, especially in Tbilisi.

Georgia is likely to head towards the general elections of 2003 with totally renewed political landscape, but some crucial battles are yet to be fought in the meantime.

By Jaba Devdariani, Civil Georgia