UNM opposition will back suspended MP Japaridze for Rustavi by-election

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The opposition United National Movement (UNM) party will back Badri Japaridze, the Lelo party’s candidate for Georgia, for the upcoming by-elections in the city of Rustavi, after the politician had his MP status terminated by the Georgian parliament on Tuesday, the head of the UNM said. Khatia Dekanoidze announced it on Wednesday.

Dekanoidze said she expected the majority vote race with ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party candidate Irakli Shatakishvili to be “very difficult”, stressing the importance of the opposition joining forces to achieve the objective.

Salome Samadashvili, who recently joined the Lelo party, said she would also continue consultations with other opposition forces, to rally support for Japaridze’s candidacy.

Our task is to create a broad coalition around the candidacy of Badri Japaridze. Our door is open for consultations for all partner parties involved,” Samadashvili announced.

Japaridze’s appointment comes after the country’s legislature voted this week to end the politician’s term as an MP due to his conviction for fraud in a case dating back to 2008. In case Japaridze wins the vote majority in the Rustavi elections, he could join the legislative body for a new term.

Archil Talakvadze, member of the GD and Deputy Speaker of Parliament, said Japaridze had no chance of winning the race for Rustavi, adding that the nomination of his candidacy was a “political maneuver to keep him on the surface of political events ” after the suspension.

Irakli Zarkua, another member of the ruling party, said “success is out of the question” for the opposition coalition in the by-election, also stressing that their decision validated the electoral system.

This decision [UNM supporting Japaridze’s candidacy] underlined the fact that the opposition appears to trust the electoral system. The electoral system has been said to be unfair, although voter turnout is an important detail [for them]”, said Zarkua.

Opposition MP from the Citizens Party Aleko Elisashvili said his party would not support Japaridze’s candidacy for the elections, saying “we will have our candidate in Rustavi”.

“It was uncollegial of them [Lelo For Georgia] when they called a press conference, introduced him and said now let’s all support Badri Japaridze,” Elisashvili said.

Japaridze, TBC Bank co-founder and current Lelo executive, was found guilty of fraud and sentenced to seven years in prison by the Tbilisi City Court on January 12, along with TBC co-founder and Lelo executive Mamuka Khazaradze. Their sentence for the charge was overturned due to the statute of limitations.

The by-election in Rustavi is scheduled for April 2. The vote was triggered by a vacant seat after former majority MP Nino Latsabidze of the GD party was elected mayor of Rustavi in ​​local autonomy elections in October last year.

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