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Saakashvili comments on Mayoral elections

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, December 7
The Government should reach “maximal” consensus with even the most radical groups, President Mikheil Saakashvili said on Saturday in Batumi at the Constitutional Court while hailing the decision to hold direct elections for the Tbilisi Mayor. “I had some doubts about this decision, however it was my initiative. This system has serious minuses along with pluses,” he said. He criticised politicians who think that “fighting for the Tbilisi Mayor’s position means fighting for Georgian Government seats.” “If being Tbilisi Mayor is nothing more for you than a stepping stone to something more in the future, this means Tbilisi residents’ problems are of minor importance for you,” he noted.

The President stated that he does not agree with setting a threshold for the Tbilisi Mayor’s elections. If a person gets a plurality of votes by undertaking a “positive” campaign he should be declared the winner, Saakashvili noted. “If someone cannot get more votes than the others but there is a second ballot, they [and other defeated candidates] will tell the people ‘we do not like each other, but let’s unite against the winning candidate and defeat him through hate votes.’ What will someone elected through “hate votes” do for the city and its residents?” Saakashvili asked.

The President hailed the consensus on the Election Code amendments package reached between some opposition parties and the ruling party, calling it an “achievement of Georgian democracy.” “Even those who do not agree with the principles being discussed in Parliament want to participate in the elections very much,” Saakashvili said. “ We all understand that some want to play a part in the political process and others just want to oppose for the sake of it to get more votes in the elections,” he added.

There are many things that should be changed in the Georgian Constitution, according to the President. “We should fully enforce all the articles in the Constitution concerning citizens’ rights, and citizens should be able to use all of their rights. Doing this should not depend on the caprice of any authorities, including the President,” Saakashvili said at Constitutional Court in Batumi.

The Georgian President also attended the opening of part of the Batumi Sheraton, the five-star hotel which will be fully completed by Summer 2010. “The white building of the Sheraton perfectly matches white Batumi,” Saakashvili said. “When we regained Batumi [from Aslan Abashidze's local regime] it was anything but white – devastated and ruined,” he said.

The Sheraton construction is just the beginning, according to the President, who said that Hyatt, Hilton, and Radisson hotels will also be “coming soon.” “Batumi will have more world class hotels that the whole of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union,” Saakashvili said. New hotels mean new jobs and investments, he noted. “There is frequent talk that we have become a service nation. I don’t think the Italian, French or Turkish complain about belonging to a service nation. Services provide their income and their wealth, and there is nothing shameful about this,” Saakashvili said.