Georgia’s ‘Lelo’ movement continues to surge with December political party launch announced

Georgian businessman Mamuka Khazaradze, the founder of TBC Bank and Anaklia Development Consortium, who recently established new public movement Lelo, has announced that the political party under the same name will be founded on December 12th, 2019, adding that the office of the party will have its headquarters in Tbilisi Central, Tbilisi’s central railway station with an adjacent shopping mall.

“Lelo Party will be established on December 12. Despite the fact that several thousand people have already joined us, membership is still open. I will be the one to personally meet and welcome future party members, in order to lead the country to victory and overcome the current defeatist attitude. 

"Our party office will be opened in Tbilisi Central by the end of the year, as this is a place which is accessible for everyone, where passengers traveling from the regions of Georgia gather and the problems of every citizen come together. We will have a dialogue with each of them. Lelo will be your party. We must free ourselves of this situation through joint forces,” he said.

Since its September launch in the Black Sea town of Anaklia, the movement has rapidly gathered momentum, with prominent new members from all sectors of society being announced on a weekly basis.  Lelo’s main goal is to win the parliamentary elections in 2020 and, in Khazaradze's words, "completely change the grave situation in the country created under the rule of the current government of Georgia." 

The Lelo movement, which is being likened to Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche initiative, was launched in Anaklia in September of this year.  Speaking at the launch Mr Khazaradze said: “We are establishing a movement today. Our movement will be aimed at teamwork, the achievement of goals, love, unity and the victory of Georgia. We are now in Anaklia, where a huge project of enormous potential has to be implemented and is being implemented. Anaklia is a place where many jobs will be created and it is an opportunity for Georgia to return to its neighbourhood, region and world map once and for all.”

Mr Khazaradze went on to say: “This country should not be saved by the messiah or someone else, but each of us, so I’m looking for leaders.” He explained that the new Lelo movement will find 12 people in various areas including medicine, education and local leaders. He added that the vision for the movement is that it will be a “party of leaders” with a horizontal structure.  He also outlined the need for clear timelines for the party to develop, saying: “We will set dates and specific goals in order to get this country very quickly out of this situation, or we will be in a swamp.”

Mr Khazaradze is a Georgian businessman who co-founded the largest Georgian universal bank, JSC TBC Bank in 1992. He graduated from Tbilisi Technical University in 1988 and also holds an executive degree from Harvard Business School, where he studied during 1998-2000. In 2014, Mr Khazaradze was awarded the EY Entrepreneur of the Year in Georgia, the first such award to a Georgian business. He was awarded the Presidential Order of Excellence in 2010. 

In addition to the Anaklia deep seaport project, he also co-founded the IDS Borjomi mineral water company with his business partners, building on the Borjomi mineral water brand that was well known throughout the Soviet Union.  He also supported the founding of the Guivy Zaldastanishvili American Academy in Tbilisi (GZAAT) a private high-school co-founded in 2001 by Guivy Zaldastanishvili.

Mr Khazaradze’s entry into politics has been met with resistance from the Georgian establishment. Shortly after his announcement in July 2019 that he planned to launch a political movement in September, he was faced with fraud charges relating to an 11-year old transaction at TBC bank. 

International observers in Tbilisi believe those charges to be fabricated in response to his step into politics, with Lelo seen as a realistic contender to fill the gap among the electorate where voters are disillusioned with the established Georgian Dream and United National Movement parties. It is also understood Mr Khazaradze’s involvement in the Ankalia port had also made establishment figures such as Bidzina Ivanshvili, the Chairman of the Georgian Dream party, fearful that Mr Khazaradze’s influence inside Georgia would grow.

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James Wilson

James Wilson

James Wilson is a Founding Director of the International Foundation for Better Governance. He is a long term resident of Brussels, has more than 30 years international business experience in public affairs and corporate communications, and is a regular contributor to EU Today.

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