UNM chair Nika Melia has presented a coalition ‘shadow cabinet’ including other opposition leaders in his run for Mayor of Tbilisi.
Melia named four Deputy Mayor candidates: Lelo Party leader Mamuka Khazaradze, Girchi — More Freedom leader Zurab Japaridze, Droa Party leader Elene Khoshtaria, as well as UNM member Irakli Abesadze.
Melia will face off against incumbent Georgian Dream mayor Kakha Kaladze in the second round of local elections on 30 October.
The runoffs will include two-way races for mayor in all five self-governing cities: Tbilisi, Rustavi, Kutaisi, Poti, and Batumi. There will also be runoffs for several seats in municipal and city councils (Sakrebulo) across the country where no candidate won more than 40% of the vote in their district, including one seat in Tbilisi’s Saburtalo District.
If Melia were to win the mayorship, he would likely face difficulties governing the city, or even appointing his chosen cabinet, as Georgian Dream will hold a majority of seats on the city council.
His rival for mayor, Kakha Kaladze, hinted that Georgian Dream would veto the highlighted deputy mayoral candidates if Melia were to win.
‘It was very funny, a man comes out and presents specific individuals saying they would occupy specific posts when Georgian Dream is represented as a majority in the Tbilisi City Council’, he said.
According to Georgia’s Local Self-Government Code, the city council must approve all deputy mayors. If the council reject the mayor’s chosen candidates, the mayor will have one opportunity to nominate the same candidates before submitting new candidates indefinitely until an agreement is reached.
‘Coalition government is a chance to hold each other accountable’
Introducing Khazaradze, Melia said that he was ‘a person who stands by the people of Tbilisi and strengthens me as a person born in this city’.
Khoshtaria, meanwhile, said that ‘coalition government is a chance to take into account the interests of all people, to stop each others’ mistakes, and to hold each other accountable — our task is not to destroy anyone, but to win’.
Before introducing the team on Wednesday, Khoshtaria and Khazaradze both signed a coalition agreement with the UNM leader.
Melia also nominated 21 candidates for the head of municipal services, including members of several opposition parties and some non-partisan figures.
During the presentation, Melia also said he would stand down as chair of the UNM if he won the mayorship.
‘I will remain an ordinary member of the party. I do not think it is right to be the mayor of a city of 1.5 million people and to hold a government meeting in the City Hall and at the same time to hold a party meeting the same day’, he said.
Writing from prison about the proposed coalition government for Tbilisi, Georgia’s third president Mikheil Saakashvili said that he ‘fully supports the diversity of the Tbilisi government and the coalition governance in the capital — to change the regime of the “Dream” into a multi-party, diverse, and effective government led by Nika Melia’.