President Saakashvili addressed inaugural session of the newly elected Parliament in Kutaisi and called on incoming government to work together, especially on Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration.
He said that the election campaign was “difficult, indecent and venomous, probably from all sides”, but “now it’s time to work” towards infrastructure and healthcare development, as well as to deepen progress in Euro-Atlantic integration.
"We are not enemies, we are political rivals," Saakashvili said. “Now it’s not time for anger, revenge and bitterness. Now it’s time for joint discussions, debates and time for joint work.”
Some members from outgoing and incoming governments, including PM nominee Bidzina Ivanishvili, who was sitting next to Georgian Orthodox Church leader Patriarch Ilia II, were present in the chamber; foreign diplomats accredited in Georgia were also present.
“We also have to work towards restoration of Georgia’s territorial integrity and de-occupation,” Saakashvili said. “We should not fall into any trap placed by Georgia’s occupying force.”
“I wish [the parliamentary] majority not to destroy and worsen anything – and I am sure you don’t want it – but to deliver on your promises you have given to the people regarding improving level of living.”
“I wish the [parliamentary] minority to agree with government when the government is right and to be constructive, but also to be restless and irreconcilable when you disagree, but on the condition that you will never be in the opposition to you own country.”
“It does not mean that we are forgetting about existing differences in our views or that we should agree with each other over the issue, which we cannot and will not agree on.”
“We have differing positions on economic policies, fight against crime and corruption, regional development, civil and minority rights, as well as on culture and foreign policy issues,” Saakashvili added.
He then spoke of the need to keep Parliament in Kutaisi. The Georgian Dream has indicated that it would try to amend the constitution – although it falls 15 votes short of required 100 for a constitutional amendment – to relocate Parliament back to the capital Tbilisi.
“Relocation of the Parliament [from Tbilisi] to Kutaisi… was neither an easy decision nor a punitive measure taken against the capital city. This is the part of a huge plan, which aims at decentralizing institutions in order to give access to everyone across the country to get engaged in the work of these institutions.”
He said that unlike the old building in Tbilisi, built in the Soviet times, the new Parliament building “is a symbol of new Georgia”.
As part of further de-centralization, Saakashvili offered to make the post of mayor in large cities directly elected.
Now only Tbilisi mayor is elected directly and mayors in Kutaisi, Batumi, Rustavi and Poti are elected by local City Councils (Sakrebulo). President Saakashvili first offered to make mayoral posts for all large cities directly elected in 2009, but the initiative was only applied to the capital city.
He also called for making post of governors and heads of local municipalities also directly elected. Now provincial governors are appointed by President in agreement with Prime Minister.
The Georgian Dream’s program under which Bidzina Ivanishvili’s coalition campaigned ahead of elections, envisages making executive posts in local self-government bodies directly elected.
Saakashvili said such reform would further deepen democratic development in the country.
He pledged his full cooperation with incoming PM Bidzina Ivanishvili on Euro-Atlantic integration issues.
“On NATO and the EU-related processes I have personally offered cooperation to incoming PM Bidzina Ivanishvili,” Saakashvili said.
It was the first time when President Saakashvili mentioned Ivanishvili by name in his public remarks.
“NATO and the EU are important issues for our country, which are above our political differences. The same is about the issues related to restoration of our territorial integrity and defending our country from external threats,” Saakashvili said.
‘We are Magicians’
After his address, Saakashvili told journalists in a brief comment outside the chamber that a week ago when newly elected MPs from the Georgian Dream visited Parliament’s new building they were complaining that it was not yet completed.
“A week later when they came, workers told them: ‘we’ve finished’ and they asked: ‘are you magicians?’ So remember it: we are magicians and more miracles are yet to come,” Saakashvili said.