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Georgian Election Winner Unveils Ministerial Candidates, Former Ruling Party Retrenches

Georgian Prime Minister-nominee Bidzina Ivanishvili speaks during a ceremony to present new ministerial nominees at his office in Tbilisi on October 16, including Kakha Kaladze (right).
Georgian Prime Minister-nominee Bidzina Ivanishvili speaks during a ceremony to present new ministerial nominees at his office in Tbilisi on October 16, including Kakha Kaladze (right).
Bidzina Ivanishvili, leader of the Georgian Dream (KO) coalition that won the Georgian parliamentary elections on October 1, unveiled his proposed new cabinet on October 16. The nominees must be endorsed by majority vote by the new parliament at its first session on October 20, and approved by President Mikheil Saakashvili, who has the constitutional right to appoint the interior and defense ministers.

Also on October 16, Saakashvili named three outgoing ministers and one outgoing parliament member as provincial governors. They could in that capacity quietly sabotage the work of the new government and thus expedite Saakashvili's stated objective of securing the return to power of his United National Movement.

Ivanishvili, who will become prime minister, named 13 of the 20 new ministers on October 8, two days before Saakashvili accepted the resignation of the outgoing government. One has since been dropped from the final lineup and a second has switched portfolios. Ivanishvili admitted on October 13 that the selection of the remaining candidates was "a complicated process."

Most nominees are either close personal associates of Ivanishvili or leading members of other political parties aligned in the Georgian Dream coalition. A couple had served as government ministers under Saakashvili's predecessor as president, Eduard Shevardnadze.

The first category includes Irakli Garibashvili, Ivanishvili's nominee for the post of interior minister; Maia Panjikidze, formerly Ivanishvili's secretary and then KO spokeswoman, as foreign minister; David Kipiani (sport and youth affairs); and Guram Odisharia (culture and preservation of monuments).

Giorgi Kvirikashvili, a former member of the board of directors of Ivanishvili's Cartu Bank, was named minister of economy and sustainable development. Kvirikashvili was elected to parliament in 1999 from the opposition New Rightists party.

KO member Nodar Khaduri was named finance minister, one of the posts left unfilled last week. Ivanishvili had previously earmarked him to chair the parliamentary Committee of Economy and Economic Policy.

David Sergienko, director of a hospital Ivanishvili built in his native Sachkhere district, was named minister of health in place of last week's nominee, Amiran Gamkrelidze, who held the post in the early 2000s under Shevardnadze. Gamkrelidze declined the ministerial portfolio but has instead been named an adviser to Ivanishvili.

Former soccer star Kakha Kaladze, whom Ivanishvili proposed last week as minister for regional development and infrastructure and first deputy prime minister, will instead serve as minister of energy and natural resources. Kaladze, 34, aligned with Ivanishvili late last year, stating publicly he refused to captain Georgia's national soccer team any longer as he disagreed with the government's policies.

Coalition Politics

Prominent among the second category are Our Georgia-Free Democrats leader Irakli Alasania (defense minister and first deputy prime minister) and four more members of his party: former human rights ombudsman Sozar Subari (minister for the penitentiary system); Tea Tsulukiani (justice minister ); and Aleksi Petriashvili (state minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration); and Kote Surguladze (minister for diaspora affairs).

Tsulukiani immediately announced new investigations into the death in February 2005 of then-Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania and the killing by Interior Ministry officials in January 2005 of banker Sandro Girgvliani.

Paata Zakareishvili of the Republican Party, a respected expert on relations with the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, was named to head the Ministry for Reintegration, which in deference to the sensitivities of the Abkhaz and Ossetians is reportedly to be renamed the "Ministry for Conflict Resolution."

In addition to Gamkrelidze, Ivanishvili has reappointed three more senior officials to the posts in which they served under Shevardnadze. They are David Kirvalidze as agriculture minister, Nodar Javakhishvili as head of the Georgian Central Bank, and Revaz Shavishvili as head of the Audit Chamber.

Some Georgian commentators have queried the suitability of Ivanishvili's proposed candidates to head the Interior Ministry and the Ministry for Energy and Natural Resources.

Garibashvili, 30, has worked for Ivanishvili since 2005 and headed his Cartu charitable foundation until Ivanishvili announced his intention to enter politics a year ago. Garibashvili has no experience in law enforcement, but has nonetheless already outlined his plans for reforming the Interior Ministry. Specifically, he plans to restore the independent status of the counterintelligence service and the department for grave crimes and terrorism that were subsumed into the Interior Ministry in 2005.

It is expected that Garibashvili will also dismiss ministry officials who owe their jobs to his predecessor, Bacho Akhalaia. Akhalaia was dismissed under a cloud in late September following the screening on local TV of video footage of the abuse and torture of prisoners in a Tbilisi jail.

Kaladze too has little experience to justify his nomination as minister of energy and natural resources. But when Ivanishvili selected him in August to head the coalition's list of candidates for the party-list seats, he stressed that "this is a well-known and worthy man, and though he has no experience in managing state agencies, he is a natural leader."

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.


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