UNM member urges ex-official Merabishvili to “abandon shadowy interference” in party, domestic politics

Nugzar Tsiklauri (L), a member of the United National Movement opposition party, on Wednesday urged former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili to openly state his political intentions. 

Agenda.ge, 11 Jan 2023 - 16:40, Tbilisi,Georgia

Nugzar Tsiklauri, a member of the United National Movement opposition party, on Wednesday accused Vano Merabishvili, the former Interior Minister from the party during its time in Government, of ongoing “shadowy interference” in developments in the UNM and domestic politics in general.

In his interview for Palitra media, the opposition politician alleged Merabishvili was interfering in the country’s politics “from the backstage”, without having made a public announcement of his political goals after leaving prison in 2020, following sentences on violations stemming back to his time in the former UNM Government.

Tsiklauri’s allegation against Merabishvili - one of the most influential figures of the former Government between 2004 and 2012 and a close ally of the currently imprisoned former President Mikheil Saakashvili - came following the release of a recording involving UNM’s incumbent Chair Nika Melia apparently making insulting statements to Saakashvili before his clandestine 2021 return to Georgia and his subsequent arrest.

Responding to the social media upload, several members of the UNM have openly accused Merabishvili of the release of the “fabricated’ audio recording in a bid to hamper Melia’s re-election as the party head in the upcoming intra-party race.

Merabishvili was arrested in 2013 and left prison in February 2020. In 2012 he served as the country's prime minister. video grab.

In his comments, Tsiklauri stressed “it is better for Merabishvili to leave the backstage and openly state his political intentions”, adding “behind-the-scenes management methods” could affect the party’s image as a “pro-Western” force. 

He also described Levan Khabeishvili - a major competitor of Melia for the party Chair position - as an “unimportant figure” in the party who was “following their instructions”, in an apparent reference to Merabishvili and his allies. 

In his first comments for the media in 2020, after serving a nearly seven-year sentence for a number of cases stemming back to his time in office, Merabishvili pledged to “put an end” to the current Georgian Dream Government, but has not officially affiliated himself to any political group in the country so far.

Arrested in May 2013, a year after the Georgian Dream Coalition founded by businessman and former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili defeated the UNM Government in Parliamentary elections, Merabishvili faced several charges, ranging from the forceful dispersal of an opposition rally in 2011 to the 2006 murder of banker Sandro Girgvliani and the 2005 assault on businessman and opposition MP Valeri Gelashvili.