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Parliament approves new government with almost unchanged composition

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Friday, December 25
The Parliament of Georgia supported the new government - Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia’s cabinet and 2021-24 program aimed at preparing the country for EU membership application in 2024 - “For Building of a European State” with 85 votes to 0, as only the ruling party lawmakers participated in the voting. The PM underscored 4 key priority areas for achieving said goal, including economic development, social policy and human capital development, foreign policy, security, conflict resolution, and human rights, and public governance.

Parliamentary committees held hearings of ministerial candidates on December 21-22, while PM Gakharia appeared in front of the lawmakers on December 23, during the session of the ruling Georgian Dream faction and yesterday, during a plenary session where he announced that the Government plans to reestablish the Ministry of Culture and Sport, which his predecessor Mamuka Bakhtadze abolished and merged with the Ministry of Education and Science as part of the small-government reform plan in 2018.

Gakharia said that economic policy for post-pandemic recovery will prioritize macroeconomic stability and fiscal consolidation. The government will consider abolishing inefficient tax cuts and privatizing underperforming state-owned enterprises, he noted.

“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, improving social welfare programs, reforming the public health system for increasing access to universal healthcare will also be prioritized,” PM Gakharia said.

Regarding security, he highlighted the need for increased pressure on Russia to fulfill its obligations, as well as to expand the EUMM mandate to cover the Kremlin-backed regions. He added the Government will continue working on 'peace initiatives' to build confidence and trust with the Abkhaz and S. Ossetian residents in the Russian occupied regions. He said the Government will prioritize Euro-Atlantic integration, cooperation on security issues with the Western partners as well as enhancing the strategic partnership with the U.S., including by working on a Free Trade Agreement.

The Parliament of Georgia confirmed late on December 24 the new ‘old cabinet’ led by PM Gakharia, composed of eleven Ministers, of which ten have retained their posts. The only new face in the cabinet is Gocha Lortkipanidze, the Minister of Justice, whose predecessor Tea Tsulukiani was elected to the Parliament. The newly-confirmed Justice Minister is expected to step down in the following months, having been elected as an International Criminal Court Justice.

Gakharia, nominated by the Georgian Dream as a candidate for the post of Prime Minister, presented the almost unchanged composition and program of the government to the parliament on December 18.

Following Ministers, among them 4 women, retained their posts:
Minister of Foreign Affairs – David Zalkaliani
Minister of Defense – Irakli Garibashvili
Minister of Internal Affairs – Vakhtang Gomelauri
Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development – Natela Turnava
Minister of Finance – Ivane Machavariani
Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure – Maia Tskitishvili
Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture – Levan Davitashvhili
Minister of Reconciliation and Civic Equality – Tea Akhvlediani
Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs – Ekaterine Tikaradze
Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport – Mikheil Chkhenkeli

After the declaration of confidence by the Parliament, the President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili issued a decree appointing Giorgi Gakharia as Prime Minister.

Opposition MPs are still in the boycott regime refusing to enter the Georgian legislature, thus none of the 60 opposition MPs attended the sitting. Most of them have already applied to the parliament to resign. All 8 opposition parties that crossed the border believe that their ruling party rigged the elections.