The reshuffle sees seven cabinet newcomers, and extends to the General Prosecutor’s Office, with Zurab Adeishvili being replaced as head by former Justice Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili.
Prime ministerial nominee Lado Gurgenidze unveiled his cabinet on January 24.
Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili – considered a key Saakashvili ally – and the ministers of defense, finance, energy and agriculture have all retained their portfolios.
Gurgenidze also announced some structural changes, with new cabinet positions being created, the abolition of others, and the renaming of one state ministry.
Many of the appointments had been widely anticipated, but Eka Tkeshelashvili’s move to the General Prosecutor’s Office, replacing Zurab Adeishvili, came as a surprise. Adeishvili - a highly influential figure in Saakashvili’s inner circle – is not, however, expected to go away empty handed. For the moment, though, Gurgenidze has refused to say what position has been earmarked for the former Prosecutor General. Aleksandre Lomaia, the secretary of the National Security Council, however, said later on January 24 that Adeishvili would probably be made the new chief of the President’s Administration.
Adeishvili’s removal, along with Interior Minister Merabishvili’s, had been sought after by the opposition.
Nika Gvaramia, the former deputy general prosecutor, has been nominated as the new justice minister.
Sandro Kvitashvili, whom Gurgenidze described as an “old friend”, has been nominated as the Minister of Healthcare and Social Issues, replacing Davit Tkeshelashvili, who goes to the newly created State Ministry for Regional Issues.
Another newcomer, Temur Iakobashvili, an executive vice-president of an influential think-tank, Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (GFSIS), is to take charge of the State Ministry for Reintegration, formerly known as the State Ministry for Conflict Resolution Issues.
“Focusing more on reintegration, rather than ‘conflict’ will be more correct,” Gurgenidze said.
Iakobashvili will replace Davit Bakradze, who is to become the new foreign minister. Gela Bezhuashvili, the holder of the office until the entire cabinet resigned following Saakashvili’s inauguration, will, according to Gurgenidze, “go into the private sector” - yet another surprise. There have been suggestions that Bezhuashvili was offered the position of secretary of the National Security Council, but refused to accept it.
Ghia Nodia, head of an influential think-tank, Caucasian Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development (CIPDD), is another newcomer to the cabinet. He is to become Minister of Education and Science.
Zaza Gamtsemlidze, a biologist and director of the Georgian Botanical Institute, has been nominated as Minister for Environmental Protection.
Iulon Gagoshidze, also a newcomer, who is an archaeologist and a senior researcher at the Georgian State Museum, will lead a new State Ministry of Diaspora Issues.
Eka Sharashidze, the head of the president’s administration, can also be regarded as a cabinet newcomer. She is slated to become Economy Minister, replacing Giorgi Arveladze. Arveladze – seen as close to Saakashvili – had previously signaled his intention to quit politics for the business world.
Goka Gabashvili, the ex-minister of culture and sport, will be replaced by his deputy, Nika Vacheishvili.
Koba Subeliani, the former minister for refugees and accommodation, retains his seat at the cabinet table, but sees his ministry renamed the State Ministry for Refugees and Accommodation. “This change demonstrates how important these people [internally displaced persons] are for us,” Gurgenidze said.
Kakha Bendukidze’s State Ministry for Coordination of Reforms is to be scrapped altogether, with the former minister becoming head of the government’s administration, replacing Petre Mamradze, a long-time holder of the position.
“I really appreciate the initiatives and innovative ideas put into practice in our economy with the help of this person,” Gurgenidze said of Bendukidze’s, at times, highly controversial reforms.
The State Ministry for Civil Integration Issues, previously headed by Zinaida Bestaeva, has also been abolished.
Giorgi Baramidze retains post of the state minister for Euro-Atlantic integration issues and the vice-premier.
Energy Minister Aleksandre Khetaguri, Finance Minister Nika Gilauri, Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili and Agriculture Minister Petre Tsiskarishvili all remain in place.
Gurgenidze said the changes constituted “a fundamentally reshuffled cabinet with professionals and civil society figures and spanning three different generations.”
“The selection criteria were professionalism and civil society values, and not party affiliation,” Gurgenidze added.