Tbilisi Tackles Problems in Post-Abashidze Adjara

Saakashvili vowed Adjara would retain autonomous
status. The issue already heats up debates.
Photo by Goga Chanadiri
In the wake of two day-long celebrations in Batumi, triggered by the peaceful ouster of ex-ruler of Adjara Aslan Abashidze, President Saakashvili launched formation of the interim state commission to run the region before the fresh local elections.

President Saakashvili is in Batumi and intends to stay there for three more days to personally supervise interim commission’s activity. The Georgian Parliament endorsed direct presidential rule in Adjara on May 6.

“I will personally chair the commission for several days and then chief of the [state-run] Railway Company Levan Varshalomidze will lead the state commission,” President Saakashvili said in his late night televised address on local Adjara TV.

“He [Varshalomidze] is young, but he is a good professional in economic skills and this is what Adjara needs right now,” Mikheil Saakashvili said.

Levan Varshalomidze, 31, who is from Adjara by origin, was appointed railway chief in January. Before appointment he run the legal and financial consulting firm.

Meanwhile, disputes already heats up over the status of the region. Adjara enjoys with autonomous status within Georgia since 1921.
A group of opposition MPs proposed to hold a plebiscite in the Adjarian Autonomous Republic regarding cancellation of the region’s autonomy. Proposal was voiced by non-partisan MP Koba Davitashvili, who is a former ally of President Saakashvili.
“The Adjarian population should decide whether they need autonomy or not,” MP Koba Davitashvili said on May 6.

Leader of the opposition parliamentary faction Rightist Opposition Davit Gamkrelidze also raised the issue of holding plebiscite.

However, proposal was dismissed by Prime Minster Zurab Zhvania as “irresponsible.”

“On the background of this huge success [peaceful transition of power in Adjara], irresponsible talks about lifting autonomous status of Adjara equals to provocation,” Zurab Zhvania responded harshly to the initiative of the opposition lawmakers.

The issue of Adjaria’s status worries Russia as well. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who met his visiting Georgian counterpart Salome Zurabishvili on May 6 in Moscow, welcomed President Saakashvili statement that Tbilisi does not intend to lift Adjara’s autonomy.

“We welcome President Saakashvili’s assurance that order will be restored in Adjara and there will be no repressions and persecution [of former regime’s supporters] and Adjara would retain autonomous status,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
Tbilisi tries to deal with the problems facing post-Abashidze Adjara. Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania said that the government’s top priority at the moment is targeting economic problems in Adjara as well as maintaining of stability in the region.

“Unemployment and social conditions of the population in Adjara is one of the worst in Georgia,” Zhvania said at the cabinet session on May 7. Situation in Adjara was the only issue discussed at the government’s meeting in Tbilisi.

“All the firms and company in Adjara were controlled and run by one – the Abashidze family,” he added.

Georgian Interior Minister Giorgi Baramidze, who is in Adjara, is in charge of disarmament of illegal armed groups in the region.

“We are withdrawing large number of arms from numerous arms caches in Batumi and in other parts of Adjara. Many vigilante groups have already started to surrender weapons,” Giorgi Baramidze told reporters on May 6.
Meanwhile, a group of Georgian lawmakers appealed the Constitutional Court requesting cancellation of Head of Adjarian Autonomy’s position.

However, the future structure of Adjara’s governance system is not clear yet. It is anticipated that the two-chamber parliament will be canceled in Adjara and the major governmental body will be the Supreme Council – the legislative body, while the Chairman of the Council – a top official of the Autonomy.


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