TBILISI, DFWatch – Bidzina Ivanishvili, the Georgian president’s main competitor, plans to win in the western Samegrelo region by having the country’s former UN ambassador run there.
The region borders on Russian controlled Abkhazia and is that part of the country where Mikheil Saakashvili’s government has the largest influence.
Bidzina Ivanishvili named Irakli Alasania as majoritarian candidate in Zugdidi on Wednesday while meeting with the local population.
Georgia has an election system with some districts using the proportional system and some the first-past-the-post system, called majoritarian candidates. 73 of the latter must be elected, and the deadline for naming candidates is September 1, one month before the election on October 1. Georgian Dream has already named 68 candidates. Those districts that are left are those that have a minority population.
Forming the pillar of Saakashvili’s power grip in Samegrelo is the Akhalaia family, which wields large influence in the area. One of the family is a former defense minister, who currently is interior minister – Bacho Akhalaia – while his brother, Data Akhalaia, today is defense minister, but until recently headed the feared secret police, called Kudi, which is accused of using torture to force confessions out of opposition members. Their father Roland Akhalaia is the regional prosecutor.
Since an opposition victory in this region would be symbolically important, Ivanishvili put a lot of consideration into choosing his majoritarian candidate in Zugdidi and finally landed on Irakli Alasania.
Alasania was for several years Georgia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, but left this position after the Russian-Georgian war in August 2008. He set up his own opposition party with other ex-diplomats.
His father was tortured and killed by Abkhazians during the war in 1993, which has made Irakli popular in Samegrelo.
He was the first person with whom Bidzina Ivanishvili wanted to cooperate with, after he decided to enter in politics in October 2011.
While presenting him as a candidate, Ivanishvili said that this person has good biography; that he fought with his father in the Abkhazian war and is well informed about local problems.
The coalition leader also said that considering Alasania characteristics, he will perfectly be able to manage the country.
“During Irakli’s visit to Abkhazia started stages of restoring relations with Abkhazians, but one single person’s unreasonable policy ruined everything, which I know with facts from Irakli.”
Bidzina Ivanishvili said Irakli Alasania has been serving his homeland since he was 18, and country needs a man with such experience.
“He lived right and you, Megrelians, such clever people, won’t be ashamed to stand along with him. Irakli went humble – a man, who is clearly a leader came here in Zugdidi and became majoritarian candidate. No other leader has ever made such a decision.”
The businessman promised the locals that they will win in the upcoming parliamentary election. He said the coalition’s main priority will be employment and territorial integrity.
“This government doesn’t want free people. We will return freedom to people, get ready for victory,” he added.