Wednesday, August 24, 2016


News Analysis: Ivanishvili's Cabinet Choices And His Domestic Reform Agenda

Georgia's Prime Minister-designate Bidzina Ivanishvili (far right) with some of the people he has chosen as cabinet ministers.
Georgia's Prime Minister-designate Bidzina Ivanishvili (far right) with some of the people he has chosen as cabinet ministers.
By Robert Coalson
The Georgian Dream coalition swept to victory in legislative elections earlier this month promising to deliver on the lofty promises of Georgia's 2003 Rose Revolution.

The coalition's win came just days after leaked videos emerged showing the apparent horrific abuse of prisoners by guards and prison officials in a Tbilisi jail, leading to popular demonstrations and the resignation of several top officials.

The scandal solidified fears that the government of President Mikheil Saakashvili was wavering in its commitment to human rights and democratic development.

Now that the leader of Georgian Dream, billionaire businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili, has announced his key cabinet picks, there is cautious optimism that the coalition intends to follow through on its mandate.

Ivanishvili tapped Irakli Garibashvili to take the post interior minister, and got lawyer Tea Tsulukiani to head the Justice Ministry.

Ivanishvili himself, when announcing his cabinet choices, stressed that although the country's first-ever peaceful transfer of power through elections was itself a landmark, it was only the beginning of a potentially difficult process.

"Besides the fact that we have peacefully changed the government, now we should do an even bigger thing, which is to become a genuine people's [government] as well as a really honest government," he said.

According to the U.S.-based NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), Georgia's human rights record in recent years has been "uneven."

HRW says Saakashvili's government used a politicized police force and judicial system for its own political purposes. It ignored deteriorating conditions in Georgian prisons and prison overcrowding. National television broadcasting is limited to state television and the pro-government Rustavi television channel.

Justice Reform

Reports in April 2011 by the Council of Europe and in May 2011 by the European Union noted the country's mixed record on rights and criticized the poor administration of justice.

Interior Minister-designate Irakli Garibashvili is just 30 years old, but he is seen as Ivanishvili's right-hand man.
Georgian Interior Minister nominee Irakli GaribashviliGeorgian Interior Minister nominee Irakli Garibashvili
Georgian Interior Minister nominee Irakli Garibashvili
Georgian Interior Minister nominee Irakli Garibashvili

Since 2004, he has worked in Ivanishvili's Cartu holding company. Most recently, he headed Ivanishvili's Cartu charitable foundation, which largely laid the groundwork for Ivanishvili to launch himself into politics.

Speaking on Georgian television on October 8, Garibashvili emphasized that Ivanishvili has tasked him with radically reforming the Interior Ministry, although he has offered no specifics yet.

"The most important task that we will have to carry out, that me and our team have been assigned, is that the police -- and the entire ministry -- should be freed from politics, from any kind of pressure," he said. "We have to defend the rights of police officers and, together with them, we must continue effective work in the service of the country. Secondly, we must make sure the police force regains its main function -- that it should serve the people and the country. This is the most important principle."

Garibashvili has said that he is the "personal guarantee" that there will be no political persecutions in Georgia and that the Interior Ministry will be "as transparent as possible."

Lincoln Mitchell, a professor at Columbia University in New York who advised Georgian Dream, expressed confidence that the young Garibashvili is capable of fulfilling such pledges:

"He's a competent, get-things-done administrator and he's very good at that, which is a large part of what the Interior Minister needs to be," he said. "His mandate is very clear there -- the Interior Ministry was a disaster, so we've got to clean it up. We've got to root out corruption. A lot of the work on strengthening democracy in Georgia will naturally fall to the Interior Ministry so this, I think, becomes a very important ministry because of that."

Turning Principles Into Policies

Ivanishvili's pick for justice minister, 37-year-old attorney Tea Tsulukiani, even more clearly demonstrates the new cabinet's human-rights priorities.

Tsulukiani joined Defense Minister-designate Irakli Alasania's Our Georgia-Free Democrats bloc in 2010 in order to oppose Saakashvili's government.

Most importantly, the French-educated Tsulukiani spent 10 years working at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Thomas de Waal, a Causcasus expert with the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, sees Tsulukiani as possibly Ivanishvili's most inspiring pick.
Georgian Justice Minister-in-waiting Tea TsulukianiGeorgian Justice Minister-in-waiting Tea Tsulukiani
Georgian Justice Minister-in-waiting Tea Tsulukiani
Georgian Justice Minister-in-waiting Tea Tsulukiani

"She will now have oversight of prisons," he said. "You know, one of the reasons that the government lost the elections was the appalling state of prisons and the criminal justice system. So to have someone who is extremely progressive on those issues as justice minister, I think, is a very important signal and that will go down very well in Europe."

Speaking to journalists the day after her appointment, Tsulukiani underlined the principle of equality before the law.

"The two main principles I want to establish -- together with my future coworkers -- within Georgia's justice system, are that everyone should be equal before the law, from minister to ordinary citizen, and that there is no place for selective justice," she said. "A person who commits a crime must be punished, but this punishment should not be destructive. Punishment should be adequate and should be aimed at the betterment of the individual."

For both Garibashvili and Tsulukiani the task now is to transform principles into effective policies.

RFE/RL Georgian Service correspondent Salome Asatiani contributed to this report
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Porkypine
October 12, 2012 15:12
There is so much hope hanging on the shoulders of the Ivanishvili's government that includes some really amazing people such as Tea Tsulukiani, Archil Kbilashvili, Irakli Garibashvili and David Kirvalidze just to name a few.

by: Victor Oniani
October 12, 2012 16:54
Dream team?
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
October 18, 2012 05:05
Tell me your easy going dreem - I tell you who you are.
Tell me your head-pain dream - I tell you who your masters are.
Act on your dreem - I tell you whether you are with God og devil.

by: Ben from: London
October 15, 2012 06:35

People expect more balanced articles from rferl. if you cite Lincoln Mitchell, a paid advisor to the Ivanishvili team, you need to cite someone who oposes them too. Also Thomas de Waal has always been pro Russian comentator, when it comes to Georgia affairs.
In Response

by: bera from: germany
October 15, 2012 08:50
Indeed, Lincoln Mitchell is no serious source. All he did was government-bashing and getting paid for it. De Waal surely is no friend of Saakashvili and critized his government strongly but I would not call him pro Russian.
In Response

by: bera from: germany
October 15, 2012 09:06
It is to be said that people like Mitchell always point at the few heads that are really presentable in this new government team. But you should not forget that this Georgian Dream coalition consists also of dubious figures and directions!
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
October 18, 2012 05:33
It were my articles for years, but I am alone.
Nobody paid me, and luck of resources hold me
and my mother in few apartment, surrounded by
"Non Lethal Weapons" and hypnotists from Russia,
making us sick, while plagiarized my intellectuial property
from arts throught science.
They tried brake me and make a plagiarized slave,
threatening kill my mother first, than me.
They were killing her also for my role in limitting
Russian invasion in Georgia in 2008.

Russians and lied by them CIA murdered my mother
Memory of my mother was destroyed by them
for many years.
Before they killed her the hypnotists made her say:
- "I think I am red!"
I told her that it was hypnosis of Russian provocateurs.

In few days they infected her (Belorussian team of nurses
came without my invitation).
Russian-CIA destroyed elevator and virtually kidnapped her by "emergency" to a hospital of CIA-Jesuits, where they murdered her in name of USA government.

They where blaiming me for anti-American activety
on this Forum, while I didn't know that Eugenio was writing
such staff and blaiming me for writing it under his name!
I found it only after my mother's death!
The most outspoken accuser in the hospital looked like British!

Queen Mother lived more than 100 - Is Her magesty aware if
Britain OK to murder my mother for Russia?
Was Obama meaning my mother, saying to Putin that they cought a spy, Jew from Russia?
Obama, grandson of Jew from Russia, which was probably serving Russia?

Look at last few month Eugenio's plot to set me and my mother for killing on RFE forums!
Why USA did it to us?
Russia facilitate plagiarizing my property!

In Response

by: Marc from: LA
October 19, 2012 19:05
De Waal pro Russian? Are you kidding me?! I'm not a huge fan of him but that's a silly comment to make.

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
October 18, 2012 05:00
For the time being, I cannot add much to unreaveling events,
Except some worning that some lines not to be crossed:
Without damaging Alasania and those he represents,
Minister of Defence canot be hold by a frozened
In moment vital for national survival of invaded.

Sochi Olimpics are more important than sign
To Russia of benevolant Georgian intentions,
But invite to expanding Russia to cleanse-on,
Not just Georgia's parts - Caucasus nations
King in "Georgian tractat" promissed protect.

Also their freedom of choice comprise from
Official Nationalities laws, 1936 Constitution.
Enviroment in Caucasus, before Khrutchev,
Would lead to Ibero-Caucasian regional CIS,
Sabotaged by Russia's army playing "Halifat".

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