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Okruashvili’s Resignation Triggers Speculation
/ 18 Nov.'06 / 17:55
Civil Georgia

There is widespread anticipation in Georgia for
Okruashvili to speak about his decision
Irakli Okruashvili, who has quit the government, declined to make any statement about his future plans when he arrived in Tbilisi from Kiev, Ukraine on November 18.

Okruashvili filed his resignation on November 17 – a move which officials, including PM Zurab Nogaideli, described as “shocking” and “surprising.”

There is widespread anticipation in Georgia for Okruashvili to comment on his decision; meanwhile, speculations about his motives and the possible consequences of his resignation prevail.

The resignation of Okruashvili, who was one of the most influential figures in the cabinet and backed with popular support, will most likely lead to a new balance of power in the government, politicians say.

Unlike the ruling party officials, opposition leaders said that there was nothing surprising in Okruashvili’s decision. Opponents of Saakashvili’s administration say the move was a result of long-standing infighting within the government.

“A so-called Bokeria-Merabishvili-Lomaia grouping in the government has gained a major victory in their drive to totally take control over the government as a result of Okruashvili’s ouster from the cabinet. Now only PM Nogaideli and his economic team remain more or less beyond this group’s control,” Davit Usupashvili, leader of the opposition Republican Party, said while speaking on the late-night political talk show Reaction aired by Tbilisi-based Imedi TV on November 17.

He was referring to three influential figures – Giga Bokeria, MP from the ruling National Movement party; Vano Merabishvili, the Interior Minister; and Kakha Lomaia, the Education Minister. In recent months there has been a good deal of speculation in the Georgian media about the possibility of Lomaia’s promotion to the position of Prime Minister, replacing Zurab Nogaideli.

“It was not a surprise move by Okruashvili because it was clear from the very beginning that he could not tolerate his removal from the Defense Ministry. But frankly speaking he did a good job not to announce that he was quitting the government immediately after the removal [from the Defense Minister’s position] and waited at least a week, because the Defense Ministry is a sensitive issue,” MP Levan Berdzenishvili of the Republican Party said.

Opponents also say that PM Nogaideli has benefited from Okruashvili’s decision to quit the government.

“PM Nogaideli was not happy with Saakashvili’s decision to appoint Okruashvili as the Economy Minister. The economic team is the only segment of the government which is under Nogaideli’s control. Independent-minded Okruashvili could have definitely undermined Nogaideli’s control over the Economy Ministry,” MP Zurab Tkemaladze, leader of the opposition Industrialist Party, said.

The Economy Minister’s position is now vacant. There is no official information available who will replace Okruashvili on this position. According to the law the Prime Minister can assume the Economy Minister’s duties, but for no longer than two weeks.

Tbilisi-based Rustavi 2 television speculated on November 18 that Davit Kezerashvili, who replaced Okruashvili in the Defense Minister’s position in a recent cabinet reshuffle on November 10, may become the new Economy Minister. Irakli Alasania, Georgia’s envoy to the UN, is also being considered for the position of Defense Minister, according to Rustavi 2.

There also are speculations that Kakha Damenia, the Deputy Economy Minister, may be promoted to the Minister’s position.

“It is likely that Kezerashvili will be replaced from the Defense Ministry, because he was appointed with Okruashvili’s recommendation and his appointment was a compromise by Saakashvili. A further reshaping of the balance of power in the government is also expected. The role of Giorgi Arveladze [chief of the President’s Administration], who was Okruashvili’s close ally, will also be very important,” Ia Antadze, political analysts from the RFE/RL Georgian Service, told Civil Georgia on November 18.

She also said that Okruashvili could join the opposition or might just quit politics.  

“But it is yet unclear who will be Okruashvili’s powerbase in case he goes into the opposition. But, Saakashvili also had no major foothold when he quit [ex-President] Shevardnadze’s administration,” Antadze added.

President Saakashvili has yet to comment on Okruashvili's resignation.

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