The Week in Brief
Friday, February 1
A new cabinet includes some previously nonpartisan ministers, but keeps key figures in the upper levels of the state. The president touts his new cabinet as inclusive and professional, while the opposition insist most of the staff changes are superficial.
The UN secretary-general released his latest report on the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict, warning that relations between the two sides are at a nadir and blaming widespread tensions in part on provocative Georgian media reports.
De facto Abkhaz president Sergey Bagapsh spent a day meeting Moscow officials, shortly after the Russian foreign minister said the Kremlin never committed to immediately recognizing Abkhazian or South Ossetian independence after Western capitals recognize an independent Kosovo.
President Mikheil Saakashvili, in his first domestic press conference since retaking office, said he is ready to shift power away from the presidency and onto parliament in the name of long-term stability. He also said the opposition spurned offers of top government posts in his new cabinet.
The political opposition issued a joint list of demands they say must be met to ensure fair parliamentary elections in the spring. The co-signers, including the New Rights and the nine-party opposition coalition, warn of more large-scale protests in Tbilisi if the government does not agree to the changes by February 15.
Tbilisi City Court froze Badri Patarkatsishvili’s assets in Georgia, including his shares in Imedi TV. The billionaire former presidential candidate is charged with conspiracy to overthrow the state and plotting to commit assassination and terrorist acts in Georgia.
The government is reviewing five expressions of interest in a tender for the state-owned Georgian Railways, while the opposition warn any privatization deals made before the parliamentary elections could be upended if they come to power.
As Georgia’s residents see their gas and electric bills higher than ever, the Labor Party alleged utilities companies are deliberately overcharging customers. Energy distributors say cold weather is forcing people to use more gas and electricity.
Authorities said they are taking preventive measures in Georgia to protect against the spread of bird flu after the deadly H5N1 virus was discovered on the Turkish Black Sea coast.