vano merabishvili --

Vano Merabishvili. (Interpressnews.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–President Mikheil Saakashvili’s party is still planning to hold primary elections to select a candidate for the presidential election, even though party secretary Vano Merabishvili is in detention.

The names of the participants have not been revealed, but among the likely candidates, Merabishvili is still on top of the list.

Members of the UNM on Monday held a briefing after consultations with the president and leader of the party. Davit Bakradze, former Speaker of Parliament, is also thought to be one of the candidates.

The UNM first spoke about the possibility of conducting a primary election months ago, but the process was suspended when Merabishvili was detained for things he did while he was interior minister and prime minister.

The cases include abusing powers, embezzlement of state money and appropriation of another person’s property. Members of the UNM think there was a political reason for his detention: that he was considered one of the candidates for president. They think Ivanishivili’s government this way attacked the competitor party right before the presidential election.

When Merabishvili was detained, members of his party said that they would make a decision about candidate a bit later and maybe without primary election, but on Monday they said they still plan to conduct an internal election.

“This will be a confirmation that detaining the Secretary General of the UNM didn’t destroy the infrastructure, ideology and unity of our party,” Davit Bakradze said at the briefing.

He explained that regional conferences will be held within the frames of primary elections in Georgia, where there will be debates among candidates. After meetings there will be held ballots in order to reveal winners of the debates of certain conferences.

The process will probably start by the end of June, according to Bakradze, and will last for two months. Those who want to participate in primaries can register within a week.