Meeting in Ajaria’s main city, Batumi, on July 11, leaders of a wide spectrum of Georgian opposition parties created a bloc with the stated purpose of defeating President Eduard Shevardnadze’s Union of Citizens of Georgia (UCG) in the October 1999 parliamentary elections. Success in those elections would then enable the joint opposition to mount a strong challenge to Shevardnadze in next year’s presidential election. Ajaria’s Supreme Soviet chairman Aslan Abashidze is the main inspirer of the electoral bloc and the potential presidential candidate of the joint opposition.
The partners in the bloc are Abashidze’s All-Georgia Revival Union, the Socialist Party (led by Vahtang Rcheulishvili), the People’s Party (led by Mamuka Giorgadze), the Traditionalists’ Union (led by Akaki Asatiani), Twenty-First Century Georgia (composed of supporters of the late president Zviad Gamsakhurdia) and, in an individual capacity, Jumber Patiashvili (former First Secretary of the Communist Party of Georgia and the runner-up to Shevardnadze at the last presidential election). These parties are ideologically diverse: Professedly, the first two are left-wing and Russian-oriented, the last three are right-wing and nationalist. Their primary common bond is the ambition to unseat Shevardnadze and his UCG. In its founding statement, the bloc pledged to “correct mistakes made by the current authorities in relations with Russia.” The opposition bloc seeks to attract additional groups and openly to capitalize on centrifugal trends in parts of Georgia against the Tbilisi government (Radio Tbilisi, Itar-Tass, July 11-12).
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