Eduard Shevardnadze, 72, hopes to win a second five-year term as president in elections to be held April 9. He stands against a large and colorful field whose diversity illustrates the challenge of nation-building in strife-torn Georgia. Among his sixteen opponents are:
* Guram Absandze, a follower of the late President Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Absandze is in pre-trial detention in connection with the attempted assassination of Shevardnadze in February 1998.* Gia Chikhvadze, another follower of Gamsakhurdia, with a base in the western province of Mingrelia.* Tengiz Asanidze, former mayor of Batumi, the capital of the separatist province of Ajaria. Asanidze is loyal to the central government in Tbilisi. Ajar authorities are holding Asanidze in jail on disputed charges of financial fraud.* Aslan Abashidze, chairman of Ajaria’s Supreme Soviet and a separatist.* Ivane Tsiklauri, an unemployed economist who is first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Georgia.* Yevgeny Jugashvili, Stalin’s grandson, a Russian citizen backed by a Stalinist coalition.* Jumber Patiashvili, first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Georgia in the final years of Soviet rule, who still has communist support.
The Central Election Commission rejected the candidacy of Igor Giorgadze, who failed to meet the two-year residency requirement. Giorgadze, the suspected organizer of an August 1995 assassination attempt against Shevardnadze, has been living in Russia, which has given him safe haven. Giorgadze had hoped that as a candidate he could gain immunity from prosecution.