President of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaitė, arrived in Tbilisi on Saturday evening to attend inauguration ceremony of president-elect Giorgi Margvelashvili on November 17.
She is the highest-ranking foreign dignitary who will be attending the inauguration ceremony, which will be held in the courtyard of the Parliament’s old building in Tbilisi center.
Delegations from about fifty countries, international and regional organizations will be attending the inauguration ceremony, according to the Georgian Foreign Ministry.
Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will lead the U.S. delegation, which also includes USAID assistant administrator Paige Alexander and deputy assistant secretary of state Thomas Melia.
Among other foreign dignitaries are: PM of Azerbaijan; foreign ministers of Armenia, Romania, Kyrgyzstan; deputy foreign ministers of Iran, Moldova, Bulgaria, Estonia; state secretary for European affairs of Portugal; parliamentary vice-minister for foreign affairs of Japan; president of upper house of the Austrian parliament; vice-speaker of lower house of the Polish parliament; vice-speaker of parliament of Belarus; minister of labour and social security of Turkey; minister of culture of Qatar; minister of economy of Turkmenistan; deputy PM of Kazakhstan; Ukraine’s deputy PM; NATO Secretary General’s special representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia.
Invitation to attend the inauguration ceremony has been snubbed by outgoing President Saakashvili and the UNM opposition party.
Several non-parliamentary political parties, among them the Christian-Democratic Movement and New Rights, have criticized the authorities for not inviting representatives of political parties other than UNM. Some also criticized decision to hold the ceremony in the courtyard of the Parliament’s old building not making it an open event for the wider public.
The authorities say the inauguration ceremony will be modest; after the oath-taking ceremony, Margvelashvili, who presidential powers will be significantly cut under the new constitution, will lay a wreath at a memorial of fallen Georgian soldiers on Hero’s Square, followed by a concert of a Georgian folk troupe and a reception for the invited foreign guests.
Meanwhile on November 16, a large number of people were queuing up outside the glass-domed presidential palace in Avlabari district of Tbilisi as outgoing president’s administration opened doors for public tours of the palace.
The glass-domed presidential palace, built by the previous authorities, will no longer serve as a residence of the president’s administration after Margvelashvili takes office – the decision slammed by the outgoing president, who said it was disrespect of state institutions. “If you don’t like the fact that Saakashvili was here, you can ventilate [the palace]… to expel my spirit from this building, but you should not drive out the [presidential] institution,” he said earlier this month.