UNM, European Georgia Trade Shots over Breach of Non-Attack Deal

Two parliamentary opposition parties – the United National Movement and the European Georgia – spent last few days trading shots over who is to blame for breaching the EPP-facilitated cooperation agreement for the upcoming presidential elections.

The scuffle began with the remarks of Grigol Vashadze, UNM-led coalition’s presidential candidate. Speaking at a campaign event in village Zemo Khodasheni of Akhmeta District on July 30, he said “all the misfortunes, mistakes and wrongdoings [under UNM’s rule] were committed by those who left UNM and who are now describing themselves as European Georgia.”

Vashadze’s remarks drew the criticism of the European Georgia party, with MP Otar Kakhidze accusing the UNM candidate of breaking their agreement and slamming him for “throwing mud at the very first opportunity.” “He has to clarify what he means by the crimes and misfortunes and who specifically committed them,” the EG lawmaker added.

The parties signed a deal on July 10 in the headquarters of the European People’s Party, agreeing to back each other’s candidates if one of them makes it into the second round of the upcoming presidential polls, as well as not to attack each other during the pre-election campaign.

UNM’s leaders, on their part, pointed fingers at the European Georgia, with MP Nika Melia claiming on August 1 that it was the EG who broke the agreement first and Vashadze only responded to their attack, apparently referring to EG leader Gigi Ugulava’s statement on July 10 that Mikheil Saakashvili’s remarks on bank revenues were “absurd and not serious.”

“It is unfortunate that such attacks take place periodically, but I hope we all can find strength to put aside our differences and concentrate on our main goal,” Melia added.

Giorgi Baramidze, who signed the agreement on UNM’s behalf, echoed Melia’s messages, saying Vashadze’s statement was “an emotional response” to Ugulava’s political attack. He added, however, that the agreement was still in effect and expressed his hope that both sides would stick to its terms and would agree to “quit this absolutely senseless squabbling.”

MP Sergi Kapanadze of the European Georgia responded with cautious optimism, saying his party would continue observing the agreement, but warning that the deal “will remain in effect as long as it is observed by both sides.”

Kapanadze also explained that Ugulava’s statement on Saakashvili was made before the agreement was signed. “Saying that it was the European Georgia who broke the deal is not accurate; I understand they had to find a justification and it is unfortunate that they found a very childish one, but I hope that they will not repeat this political mistake,” he added.

The European Georgia split from the United National Movement in early 2017, following months of intra-party dispute. The two participated separately in the municipal polls in October 2017, with UNM and EG garnering 17% and 10% of votes, respectively.

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