Georgia’s Saakashvili Nominates Rival Ivanishvili as PM

Posted October 17th, 2012 at 1:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has nominated his rival, Bidzina Ivanishvili, as prime minister, a post the billionaire businessman was expected to fill after his coalition won a parliamentary election earlier this month.

A Georgian presidential spokesman announced Mr. Ivanishvili's nomination on Wednesday, saying he has 10 days to present his proposed Cabinet to the newly elected parliament for a vote of confidence. Mr. Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition won an absolute parliamentary majority in the October 1 election, ending the nine-year rule of President Saakashvili's United National Movement party.

Both leaders have agreed on a peaceful transition of power — Georgia's first since breaking away from the Soviet Union in 1991. The Georgian president will remain in office until next year, when his term expires and many presidential powers will be transferred to the prime minister as part of a constitutional change.

Mr. Ivanishvili has promised to improve relations with Russia, which defeated Georgian forces in a brief 2008 war. The two sides have not had diplomatic relations since the conflict. Speaking Wednesday, Mr. Ivanishvili said he wants Georgia to compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi, a statement welcomed by the Russian Foreign Ministry as “positive.”

The incoming Georgian prime minister's nominee for minister of European and Euro-Atlantic Integration said Georgian negotiations with Russia are a must. But Aleksi Petriashvili also said Georgia will not alter its course toward integration with the European Union and NATO. That course has angered Russia, which sees Georgia as within its traditional sphere of influence.

In another move aimed at ensuring a smooth political transition, President Saakashvili said Tuesday he has restored Mr. Ivanishvili's Georgian citizenship. Georgian authorities revoked the tycoon's nationality a year ago when he announced his entry into politics, citing his dual French citizenship. Mr. Ivanishvili later began proceedings to renounce his French nationality in order to qualify for political office.