As Tbilisi's first-ever mayoral race heats up, one prominent opposition group appears on the verge of breaking up. The group's leader, former United Nations Ambassador Irakli Alasania, sparked the internal crisis by endorsing an initiative to produce a unified candidate to challenge incumbent mayor Gigi Ugulava.
Georgian opposition groups have long struggled to forge cross-party unity around a single candidate. Members of two opposition parties that form the backbone of Alasania's Alliance for Georgia -- the Republican Party and the New Rights Party -- had opposed holding a primary election. Alasania's support for nominating a single opposition challenger to run in the mayoral election reportedly caught his coalition cohorts by surprise.
The Republican Party said it would not cooperate with a bloc that includes ex-Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli's Justice for Georgia Party. Noghaideli raised eyebrows in Tbilisi after he reached out to Moscow late last year and recently signed a cooperation agreement with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party.
In a February 22 interview with Tbilisi's pro-opposition Maestro television channel, Alasania also criticized Noghaideli for cooperating with Moscow while Russia refuses to withdraw troops from breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But said that the ex-prime minister and his supporters should also have a chance to participate in the process to select a joint opposition candidate for mayor.
In response, the New Rights and Republicans hinted that they may soon part ways with the 36-year-old Alasania.