Ruling party MP: UNM opposition plan to stop Parliamentary work part of “efforts against EU integration”

  • Anri Okhanashvili, the Chair of the Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee from the ruling Georgian Dream party, on Tuesday commented on the UNM’s move to stop the Parliamentary work. Photo: Parliament press office, 7 Feb 2023 - 14:12, Tbilisi,Georgia

Announcement of United National Movement, the largest opposition party in the country, to boycott Parliamentary work in response to Tbilisi City Court ruling on the imprisoned former President Mikheil Saakashvili is a part of the party’s “continuous efforts” to “hamper” Georgia’s European integration process, Anri Okhanashvili, the Chair of the Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee from the ruling Georgian Dream party, said on Tuesday. 

The lawmaker’s comment for the media came following the announcement by UNM Chair Levan Khabeishvili on Monday of the party’s boycott of the legislative body and “permanent rallies”, in response to the Court’s ruling that denied Saakashvili release or postponement of his prison term on health grounds earlier during the day. 

Okhanashvili claimed the opposition party had been engaged in “sabotage” since taking seats in the legislative body in May 2021, and added the “positive assessments” of the European Commission this month on Georgia’s alignment with the European Union framework had “further intensified” UNM’s “anti-state efforts targeted against Georgia’s EU membership”. 

He once again criticised the party for its refusal to join the ongoing Parliamentary work for meeting priorities set by the EU last year for granting its membership candidate status to Georgia, which have been ongoing since June 2022.

Opposition MP Elisashvili said if UNM suspended its work in Parliament, then its MPs should request the cancellation of their mandates. Photo: Parliament press office. 

“The UNM has been engaged in sabotage that prevents the fulfilment of the first condition of the EU for the candidate status - depolarisation of the current political environment in the country”, the Committee Chair said.

The party does not wish to see Georgia in the EU”, he added, and said UNM MPs should formally request cancellation of their mandates following the boycott.

“Let’s see whether they will be as brave in requesting this, as they are in making pledges to stop Parliamentary activity”, Okanashvili said. 

Fellow ruling party MP Irakli Kadagishvili said on Tuesday UNM had been attempting to “spark unrest” in the country and remove current authorities “for years”. 

Their absence will make no changes to Parliamentary work. UNM members have failed to find their place in the body”, he claimed. 

Aleko Elisashvili, an MP from the Citizens opposition party, called the UNM decision “not serious”, adding the party’s lawmakers should request suspension of their mandates and not receive MP salaries if they were abandoning work in the lawmaking body.

There are several wings in the opposition that are competing with one another in radicalism”, Elisashvili said. 

Salome Samadashvili from the Lelo opposition party on Tuesday disapproved of the UNM's move to stop the Parliamentary work. Photo: RFE/RL. 

Salome Samadashvili, an MP from the Lelo opposition party and a former UNM leader, said the boycott would not benefit either the domestic opposition or "state interests", and noted a “number of questions” needed to be resolved through “active engagement” of opposition lawmakers.

UNM’s announcement of the boycott and rallies comes after the Court denied Saakashvili release or postponement of the rest of his sentence in a case that has been surrounded by public debate and controversy.

Judge Giorgi Arevadze dismissed the request that had been made by Saakashvili’s legal team - and supported by his family and a part of the domestic political opposition - which claimed the former official was in need of urgent treatment abroad.

They claimed domestic health professionals had been unable to provide Saakashvili with adequate treatment in detention - the former President has been under supervision at a civilian clinic in Tbilisi - while penitentiary authorities and medical professionals tending to him have alleged Saakashvili was engaged in “self-harm” and disobeying doctors.