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Election campaigns pick up steam

By Eter Tsotniashvili
Wednesday, April 23
With just under a month until the parliamentary elections, politicians are now campaigning in earnest.

The nine-party opposition coalition unveiled its full list of majoritarian candidates on April 21. Salome Zourabichvili, leader of Georgia’s Way and an opposition coalition member, said their bloc is putting up many well-known public figures.

“We know that these leaders will score a victory tomorrow,” Zourabichvili said.

Zourabichvili earlier led a briefing in front of a block of flats demolished by Tbilisi municipality last summer. The destruction of what the city said was an illegal building left 26 families homeless, she said.

Zourabichvili said the government’s “real face is demolition and infringement of property rights,” and promised to rebuild a new Georgia where private property rights are upheld after winning the elections.

Property rights was also a main theme in the first day of election campaigning for Republican Tina Khidasheli, running for a majoritarian seat in Tbilisi’s Saburtalo district.

She held a campaign stop from a metro station where the city demolished small shops in January 2007. She said the ruling party’s current candidate in the district was personally responsible for demolishing private property.

The moderate Republicans, which split from the nine-party opposition coalition in March to mount an independent election bid, presented their list of candidates yesterday.

Davit Usupashvili said the party is putting up 67 majoritarian candidates, out of the 75 districts countrywide, with 150 party members running on a party list in proportional voting.

And the ruling party’s recently-recruited majoritarian candidate for Samgori district, Rusudan Kervalishvili, visited a hospital in her campaign stop, meeting with medics who told reporters the government has been of much help to the hospital.

Kervalishvili is a co-founder of the prominent real estate developer Center Point, and one of the most visible entrepreneurs recruited by the government to run in the May 21 parliamentary elections. She faces leading opposition coalition member Levan Gachechiladze, the coalition’s former candidate for president.

Majoritarian candidates run in first-past-the-post elections in 75 electoral districts across Georgia, with a run-off avoided if any candidate wins more than 30 percent of the vote.

75 other parliamentary seats will be filled in countrywide proportional party list voting.

The nine-party opposition coalition, whose candidate took over a quarter of the vote in January 5 presidential election, is running majoritarian candidates in all ten of Tbilisi’s districts, where the opposition generally outperformed President Mikheil Saakashvili in that election. The crowded field pits as many as six opposition candidates in some capital districts against the ruling party’s candidates.