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New Prime Minister, old expectations

Thursday, October 30
The President has nominated a new Prime Minister, Grigol (Gega) Mgaloblishvili. In a couple of houers he should also submit a new Cabinet of Ministers to Parliament ,which will then approve the respective candidates.

There are always rumours and gossip in Tbilisi about who will do what in the Government at a given time. But often these rumours are true. It was rumoured that the soon-to-be-ex-Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze would resign, and this one also came true. The same rumour mill named different possible candidates to replace him, but the President has chosen a nonpolitical figure. If an Ambassador can be called nonpolitical, that is.

The comments made so far on the appointment have been controversial: generally they have been rather positive but some critical. The leader of the New Rights opposition party David Gamkrelidze thinks that Mgaloblishvili will be merely an assistant fulfilling Saakashviliís orders. Leader of the Christian Democrats Giorgi Targamadze thinks this nomination is the result of a power struggle among those close to the President in which nobody wanted their opponent to promote or appoint a candidate. However, the fact that Mgaloblishvili is the Presidentís nominee shows that Saakashvili is still the master of ceremonies in this country.

Quite surprisingly, many commentators are insisting that the Ambassador has no political ambitions. How do they know this? On what is this opinion based? As he has agreed to become Prime Minister this already demonstrates that he has some sort of political ambitions. Again, it remains to be demonstrated what the connection is between his previous career as a theoretically non-partisan diplomat and any suitability for such a senior, and by definition highly partisan, political post.

Of course many question marks will disappear when the portfolio of new Cabinet members is known. Law enforcement Ministers cannot be touched without the Presidentís consent. But will the new PM be able to reshuffle the economic team? How independently can Mgaloblishvili promote his candidates? To what extent? Will he be the decision maker or just a clerk? The names and titles of the new Ministers will go a long way to answering these questions for those with inside knowledge of the Georgian political scene, and may either reassure or aggravate an already rather tetchy public.

Obviously, since the President remains the sole leader in the country nothing will radically alter. But some more-than-cosmetic changes should be carried out in the country. After all it has just lost a war. Someone will have to go, they always do in such situations.

Have you ever played chess? The pawns are often sacrificed to rescue the position. But in politics, unlike chess, any piece which is sacrificed, and the more so the bigger they get, has a habit of appearing in opposition colours before the end of the game.

Note: this editorial was prepared before the new Cabinet of Ministers was presented late yesterday afternoon. As expected, none of the four new Ministers is a new name, as each has held a previous Government appointment.