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Former Georgian opposition leader Nika Melia to form new party

8 December 2023
Nika Melia. Image: Tata Shoshiashvili/OC Media.

The former chair of the United National Movement (UNM) has announced he is leaving to found his own party, following months of speculation and internal conflict within Georgia’s largest opposition party.

At a briefing on Thursday evening, Nika Melia said the UNM had made ‘informal management and behind-the-scenes influences’ its political standard, and accused the party of being politically corrupt.

He added that the party was in the habit of ‘persecuting dissent’ and ‘closing the door to democracy’. 

‘So I’m going? Yes, I’m moving forward to the future and leaving the past in the past’, he said, adding that ‘dignity, morality, [and] the value of words and ethics’ needed to be used to address Georgia’s political issues. 

Later that day, Melia announced on the opposition-aligned TV station Mtavari Arkhi that he would be establishing his own political party.

‘[The party] will be established very soon, within a reasonable time. We will start working on this issue from tomorrow’, said Melia. 

Melia’s announcement came following several months of silence from the former chair. It was also preceded by a large outflow from the party, with around 100 members and local officials from around the country having left the party since Monday. 

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[Read on OC Media: Dozens of UNM council members leave party in opposition to current chair]

Many who left the party attributed their departure to the failure of the current chair, Levan Khabeishvili, to fulfil his promises, and stated that they would not rule out continuing their political activities with Melia. 

Khabeishvili displaced Melia in snap internal party elections at the beginning of the year, on a platform promising to free the party’s founder and former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who has been in prison in Georgia since his return in October 2020. 

‘Nothing new has happened’

The response to Melia’s announcement has been mixed. 

Roman Gotsiridze, an MP who left the UNM in February and went on to co-found the Eurooptismists parliamentary group, stated that Melia’s party would be a ‘serious opposition party’. 

‘A serious player is emerging who will strengthen the creation of the number one political block’, said Gotsiridze. ‘I imagine myself as one of the parts of such a centre’, he added.

UNM MP Levan Bezhashvili however, stated that Melia’s exit was ‘nothing new’ and would have ‘no consequences’. 

The ruling Georgian Dream party’s vice-speaker of parliament, Archil Talakvadze, commented that Melia’s departure could not be termed a decision, but was rather ‘an escape’ from a party ‘facing a catastrophe’. 

After months of speculation, Khabeishvili announced on 26 November that Melia was no longer a member of the party, having failed to sign a ‘manifesto of unity’ on the 20th anniversary of Georgia’s Rose Revolution.