UNM: 11 withdrew their candidacies following pressure from authorities

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The United National Movement officials said on 29 May that after the registration of the candidates for Mayoral and Governor's positions, as well as the submission of the party lists were finalized for the upcoming local self-governance elections (May 16), the government launched a "new form of fight" against the UNM. Gigi Ugulava, head of the Party's election staff said at a press conference on Thursday that the government has been pressuring the registered candidates to voluntarily decline to participate in the upcoming elections. Ugulava noted that the authorities have been putting pressure on majoritarian, as well as the party list candidates of the United National Movement.

"The law enforcers have been directly threatening [the candidates] that they will plant weapons or drugs on them or on their family members and arrest them, or their family members or relatives will lose their jobs and they will be forced to resign," Ugulava said, adding that by 28 May, 11 persons had withdrawn their candidacies.
According to Ugulava, the process is especially active in Kvemo Kartli and Samtskhe Javakheti regions. He pointed out that the process has been managed by the Shida Kartli regional police department chief, Levan Kvitsiani.

"He directly orders the heads of the regional police departments to pressure the registered candidates. The process is especially active in Dmanisi region, which, in our opinion, is linked to the high results of the UNM's candidate (41.53%) at the last Presidential Elections. The process of pressuring candidates in Dmanisi is led by the Dmanisi police chief, Aleksandre Gigani. As a result of the activities of the law enforcers, four representatives of the UNM party list in Dmanisi: Stambul Kurbanov, Shakhvadin Kojaev, Almaz Ramazanov and Elmuraz Gasanov refused to be the candidates. The pressure on the candidates in Dmanisi continues and in case two more persons refuse their candidacy, the UNM election block will face the risk of annulment of its party list, which obviously is the true aim of the government," Ugulava said.

The UNM called on the authorities, "specifically, Mr. Kvitsiani and Mr. Gigani, to stop persecuting, pressuring and blackmailing the candidates." The UNM also called on the inter-agency commission, the NGOs and the observation missions to study the cases and "impact all the specific persons and institutions involved in this illegal process."

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