Parliament Speaker urges opposition parties to “distance themselves from large, radical groups”

  • Georgian Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili on Wednesday addressed the legislative body. Photo: Parliament press office, 8 Feb 2023 - 15:58, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili on Wednesday urged domestic opposition parties to “distance themselves from large, radical groups” on the domestic scene to facilitate the formation of a “healthier political environment” in the country. 

In his address to the legislative body, the Parliamentary official called on the “non-radical” parties to “cut ties with the radical groups for a prolonged time and not superficially”, to pave a way to a “constructive dialogue” with authorities. 

What is happening now in Georgia is not the polarisation of a political environment, which is already the norm in modern politics, but radicalisation”, he said. 

Papuashvili’s remarks came following the announcement by Levan Khabeishvili, the Chair of the United National Movement, the largest opposition party in the country, on Monday of the party’s boycott of the legislative body and “permanent rallies”, in response to a court ruling that denied former President and UNM founder Mikheil Saakashvili release or postponement of his prison term on health grounds. 

UNM MPs boycotting the Parliamentary work. They have not requested the cancellation of their mandates so far. Photo: Parliament press office. 

Pointing to the empty seats of UNM MPs, Papuashvili claimed “in private conversations we all point out how irrational, illogical and confrontational [the boycott] is”, and called on opposition lawmakers to “call [the boycott] by its name and distance yourselves from it”. 

The UNM’s announcement of the boycott and rallies by its newly elected Chair has also triggered controversies within the party, with several of its MPs warning the move could further complicate the situation both for the party and Saakashvili, who is serving a six-year-term for abuse of power while in office, following his arrest in Tbilisi in October 2021. 

Responding to UNM’s boycott, ruling Georgian Dream lawmakers have claimed the opposition party had been engaged in “sabotage” since its members took seats in the legislative body in May 2021.

Government members have also pointed to the “positive assessments” from a European Commission report this month on Georgia’s alignment with the European Union framework, and claimed the report had “further intensified” UNM’s “anti-state efforts targeted against Georgia’s EU membership”.