Surprise Offer

The Labor Endorse Saakashvili as City Council Chairman

The winner of local elections in Tbilisi, Labor Party made a surprise offer for partnership to a second tier – Mikheil Saakashvili and his National Movement. Leader of the Labor Party Shalva Natelashvili promised support Saakashvili as the chairman of the city council.

Natelashvili’s proposal to Saakashvili comes unexpected as the Labor and Nationalists seemed to be on the different extremes of the political spectrum, and engaged in bitter exchange before the elections, blaming each other for an alliance with the government. However, analysts have noted the similarities in the electoral base of the parties, as both winners managed to capitalize on a “protest vote” against the government.

However, Shalva Natelashvili made his offer with as little friendliness as possible. “It is better to support him [Saakashvili], so afterwards people won’t say that Saakashvili could have saved Tbilisi and Georgia and we did not give him a chance. The National Movement conducts large PR campaign about all this,” said Shalva Natelashvili at the news conference on June 13 explaining his decision and apparently trying to save face with his electorate.

Saakashvili said the he perceived this proposal as a “constructive” one and expressed willingness to cooperate as well.

The decision slashes the chairmanship chances for the leader of the third tier – the New Rights party – Levan Gachechiladze, who was expected to receive such an offer, since Natelashvili declared early on that he would not be running for chairmanship. Position of the New Rights regarding the new alliance is yet unknown though.

Another party – “Industry will Save Georgia”, which will be nominating its member for the chairman’s post, welcomed coalition of the Labor and the National Movement parties. “Tbilisi voted for these two parties. Therefore, we will welcome these two jointly undertaking responsibility for situation in Sakrebulo. Of course, any kind of alliance was not good for us though,” Zurab Tkemaladze, one of the leaders of the Industrialists, told the Civil Georgia on June 14.

Position of other factions will not be decisive for the Labor and National Movement parties, since together they will have absolute majority of the votes – 29. In addition they will have 4 more votes of Zhvania’s team, which supports Saakashvili. Thus, the broad coalition under Saakashvili control will be able to pass any issue in the Sakrebulo.

Apparently, Natelashvili’s offer was unexpected for Saakashvili as well. He still is a parliament member has stated earlier, that he would move to Sakrebulo and become its chairman, only if his party had acquired majority of the seats. But proposal of the Labor Party is likely to be forcing him to leave the parliament.

By Giorgi Sepashvili, Civil Georgia

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