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Half of the country’s governors to lose their posts

By Christina Tashkevich
Tuesday, February 5
The government announced a thorough shakeup of regional administrators yesterday, promising to replace half of the country’s governors.

First of the president-appointed governors to go are the heads of Guria, Metskheta-Mtianeti and Shida Kartli regions.

State Minister for Regional Issues Davit Tkeshelashvili told journalists that Lado Vardzelashvili, a deputy culture minister, is in line for the post of Shida Kartli governor.

Opposition politicians criticized the changes as little more than President Mikheil Saakashvili sacking governors of regions where he underperformed in his January 5 reelection. Recent changes in Tbilisi district heads were also speculated to be linked to the ruling party’s campaign performance in the capital, which Saakashvili lost to opposition coalition candidate Levan Gachechiladze.

Outside Tbilisi, Saakashvili lost only in the districts of Dusheti and Kazbegi, two of the three districts making up Mtskheta-Mtianeti. He also took significantly less than half the vote in every district of Guria.

But Saakashvili, who was reelected with over 53 percent of the vote nationwide, received relatively strong support in Shida Kartli.

Opposition coalition representative Kakha Kukava dismissed the change in governors as an example of “unserious post-election” decisions.

“Saakashvili proved once again he’s not a president, but just the leader of the National Movement [ruling party],” Kukava said.

Kukava warned these changes would be “yet another step towards destabilization in the country.”

The opposition say Saakashvili was illegitimately reelected in a rigged election.

Vardzelashvili, the deputy culture minister picked as the next Shida Kartli governor, was once the local ruling party boss in the Shida Kartli town of Gori.

“I worked in Shida Kartli during election campaigns and I’m well aware of the problems of citizens living in the region,” he said.

President Saakashvili called for a “revival” at all levels of government last week, criticizing some regional governors for inactivity in their posts.

“There are many governors whom people have never seen,” Saakashvili told a group of regional journalists on January 30.

The state minister for regional issues said news about the other six regions would be released over the course of this week.