Georgian Billionaire Unveils Cabinet

Posted October 8th, 2012 at 10:10 am (UTC-5)
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The Georgian billionaire who defeated President Mikheil Saakashvili's party in last week's parliamentary elections is giving Georgians — and the rest of the world — a better idea of where he plans to take the country.

Georgian Dream coalition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili, who says he expects to be the country's next prime minister, unveiled most of his Cabinet during a news conference in Tbilisi Monday, promising it would work for the people.

“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.''

Many analysts had viewed Ivanishvili as a pro-Russian politician, but many of the picks seem to indicate he will also continue looking toward the West.

The Cabinet must still be approved by the new parliament once it is seated later this month.

Ivanishvili nominated Irakli Alasania defense minister and deputy prime minister. Alasania has previously served as deputy defense minister and as an ambassador to the United Nations.

Ivanishvili named Maia Panjikidze to the post of foreign minister. Panjikidze is a former ambassador to Germany and the Netherlands.

Other key appointments include Irakli Garibashvili, who headed Ivanishvili's charitable foundation, as interior minister and former football star Kakha Kaladze as minister of regional development and infrastructure.

Mark Mullen with Transparency International says Ivanishvili's choices should be seen as encouraging.

“Very good news. The short version is that of his (Bidzina Ivanishvili's) political team it was a very broad coalition, in the campaign period there is a lot of animosity between the different groups and I think overwhelmingly the people that have been chosen for the jobs are very good.''

Ivanishvili said last week he will make Washington his first foreign trip should he become prime minister. And his choice for foreign minister, Maia Panjikidze, reiterated Monday the new ruling coalition has no intention of loosening ties with the United States or NATO.

Panjikidze said there will just be a new emphasis on also normalizing relations with Russia.

Russia, which defeated Georgia in a brief war in 2008, has said it hopes Georgia's parliamentary election will help normalize ties between the two countries.

Despite the change-over in parliament, President Saakashvili will remain Georgia's president until his term expires next year. Under changes in the constitution, many of the president's powers will then transfer to the prime minister.

Ivanishvili said Monday he hopes his new government ushers in a new era for Georgian politics.

“I have a big desire and our team has a big desire too, for the first time in Georgian history, not only to change the government by peaceful means, but also to make many changes. We want to have a very public and honorable government. In order to make them (government) work for the people, I want to make a mental breakthrough in the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor's office, which previously had a big question mark over them, because of many acts of violence they have conducted.”