Saturday, August 23, 2014


Georgia

Georgian Election Winner Names Cabinet Picks

Bidzina Ivanishvili (center) is seen presenting his cabinet picks in Tbilisi on October 8. A relative newcomer to politics, analysts suggest Ivanishvili must still tame the nine parties composing his Georgian Dream coalition.
Bidzina Ivanishvili (center) is seen presenting his cabinet picks in Tbilisi on October 8. A relative newcomer to politics, analysts suggest Ivanishvili must still tame the nine parties composing his Georgian Dream coalition.
Georgian Dream coalition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili has named candidates for his prospective cabinet, one week after voters in the fractious and strategically significant Transcaucasus state dealt a blow to President Mikheil Saakashvili and his ruling party.

A billionaire whose coalition of nine disparate parties surged on the strength of opposition to an entrenched president, Ivanishvili named Irakli Alasania, a former deputy defense minister and Georgian ambassador to the United Nations, for the post of defense minister.

His candidate for interior minister is Irakli Garibashvili, the head for many years of Ivanishvili's charity foundation, Kartu.

Ivanishvili nominated Maia Panjikidze, a former ambassador to Germany and the Netherlands who also served as a spokeswoman for Georgian Dream, for the post of foreign minister.

Speaking to RFE/RL after the announcement, Panjikidze noted that improving relations with Moscow won't be easy.

"The restoration of diplomatic relations, considering the fact that Russia operates two embassies in [the Abkhaz capital] Sukhumi and in [the South Ossetian capital] Tskhinvali, is a very difficult issue. However, we will need to work on solving this issue," Panjikidze said. "As for concrete steps that will be taken from both sides -- it is still too early to tell. We have stated many times -- these relations will not be rectified on one or two days, as 20 percent of Georgia's territory remains occupied by [Russia]."

Among other nominees, Ivanishvili named another woman, Tea Tsulukiani, as his pick for justice minister; Kakha Kaladze, a retired football player, as minister of regional development and infrastructure; and Guram Odisharia as culture minister.

Speaking at a news conference in Tbilisi, Ivanishvili named himself as prime minister in the new cabinet, which needs a simple majority in the 150-seat chamber to be approved.

The new parliament will have its first sitting on October 21.

"Besides the fact that we have peacefully changed the government, now we should do even a bigger thing -- which is to become a really people's and really honest government," Ivanishvili said.

Majority In Parliament

Ivanishvili is Georgia's richest man and a relative newcomer to Georgia's political scene.

His Georgian Dream coalition won at least 83 parliament seats in the October 1 elections, which followed bitter campaigning but opened the door to the first ballot-led handover of power in Georgia's post-Soviet history.

The poll's results have yet to be finalized due to complaints of vote rigging.

Georgian Dream says violations in races for individual candidates cheated it of a number of seats. Government officials deny the charge.

Saakashvili's second and final presidential term ends in October 2013.

Under a constitutional reform that goes into effect after he leaves office, many of the president's powers will be transferred to the prime minister.

Foreign Friends

Ivanishvili has said he wants to improve Georgia's ties with neighboring Russia, badly damaged by a brief war over Georgia's Russian-backed separatist region of South Ossetia in 2008.

Ties between the two countries have been strained by Saakashvili's efforts to bring Georgia into NATO and steer the Caucasus nation away from Moscow's orbit.

Ivanishvili has said he will also pursue integration with NATO and the European Union.

He said his first trip abroad would be to the United States, which has strongly supported Saakashvili during his presidency.

Based on reporting by Interfax, ITAR-TASS, www.civil.ge, Reuters, AP, and RFE/RL

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