The third president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili is in no need of pardon. We are waiting for victory in the October 2 municipal elections - the United National Movement (UNM) opposition candidate for Kutaisi mayor Khatia Dekanoidze has told Front News.
Dekanoidze has discussed the election environment and expectations with Front News, as well as Saakashvili’s possible return to Georgia for the election day.
Q. Two days are left before the elections. What is the voters’ attitude, is there a genuine readiness for changes?
A. Expectations are high and we will definitely win to put an end to this stagnation. We are getting ready to terminate the poor reality and achieve the holding of repeat parliamentary elections. The Georgian Dream must not take 43 percent of votes in the race.
Q. How will you prevent possible vote rigging?
A. High voter turnout is crucial. This will be the most powerful lever against rigging the elections. As more individuals vote against the ruling party, fewer chances will be left for rigging. We are also actively cooperating with the international community and informing them about all, even minor, violations.
Q. Numerous statements have been made on the alleged return of Saakashvili to Georgia. MEP Viola von Cramon said that the arrival will not serve the Georgian interests. What is your view?
A. The ruling party has betrayed all European values, including the EU-Georgia agreement which was recently signed with the mediation of the European Council President Charles Michel. In the very critical time for the state, no one will ban Saakashvili from returning to Georgia to defend votes in the essential referendum for the country. He will return when polling stations are closed.
Q. Don’t you think that the time Saakashvili chose to return, the evening of the election day, may shift your attention onto welcoming the ex-president at the airport rather than focusing on electoral issues at polling stations?
A. We all will be present at polling stations to defend votes. I will be in Kutaisi, while my friends - in other regions of the country. All our activists will stand out to defend votes. Saakashvili is returning to Georgia peacefully, with his mother, to help the country come out of the current complicated situation. Thus, the activeness of voters is crucial. If we refuse to vote, we will not be able to save the country.
Q. Vice-PM Tea Tsulukiani said that ‘mom’s boy is returning,’ while PM Irakli Garibashvili has called Saakashvili ‘Mikho.’ What is your comment on the statements?
A. The statements are from the aggressive, hate campaign of the ruling party. It is unimaginable from a woman to make such comments as Tsulukiani did. I would like to remind them both that their statements will not encourage the ruling party supporters because they have no big value in their eyes.
Q. It has been stated that President Salome Zurabishvili may pardon Saakashvili if he returns. Nika Melia said that instead the Prosecutor’s Office may bring new charges against Saakashvili. According to ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia, Saakashvili's return will end with amnesty. What are your expectations?
A. I would say one - Saakashvili is in no need of Zurabishvili’s pardon. He has committed nothing to be pardoned. All accusations against him are unfounded and the international community knows this, that is why he is wanted only by Georgian law enforcers.
Q. However, he has already been charged and convicted in absentia.
A. After the elections, when the will of Georgians will prevail, everyone will be equal before the fair court. I do not exclude bringing new charges against Saakashvili, because the current government is only engaged with political persecution and illegal surveillance. The Georgian people are also well-aware of this.
Q. So you believe that under the fair court, Saakashvili will be justified. However, before this happens, he might be arrested, isn't he?
A. Under the fair court all unfounded accusations will be lifted. There will be no accusations at all. As for the imprisonment, he knows what he does. That is why defending the votes is crucial now and all Georgian citizens should understand this.
Q. Part of the opposition is afraid of further polarisation in the country if Saakashvili returns. What do you think?
A. They have the right to think what they want. We are cooperating with many opposition parties. We, the largest opposition party, stated that the country’s future is in the coalition government. We have made concessions for this and refused to present our majoritarian candidates in many constituencies, including in Tbilisi.
Q. You are running for Kutaisi mayor. What are your expectations and what would you say about your opponent from the ruling party?
A. We are waiting for only victory. Kutaisi does not deserve a mayor who is controlled by the state intelligence service. He refused to debate with me. Unfortunately, he is afraid of questions by journalists or voters. Actually, he is accountable only to the State Security Service and not to Georgian citizens. I feel sorry for him. I cannot even call him a politician. The ruling party has done nothing for the city for nine years, they are only feasting here. That is why we are waiting for victory on October 2.