New Mayor of Tbilisi Appointed

Gigi Ugulava- a former civil society activist,
Deputy Security Minister and Governor – will
now become the Mayor of the capital city.
President Saakashvili appointed his chief of administration Gigi Ugulava as capital city Tbilisi’s Mayor on July 12, replacing Zurab Tchiaberashvili.  This move confirmed earlier speculations which have recently been circulating in the media.

At a news conference, convened by Mikheil Saakashvili late on July 12, the President said that Zurab Tchiaberashvili, who was appointed as the Tbilisi Mayor last April, will now be nominated as Georgia’s Representative to the Council of Europe, replacing Lana Gogoberidze. He also said that MP Giorgi Arveladze, a political secretary of the ruling National Movement party, will become acting Chief of the President’s Administration. Saakashvili did not specify his reasons behind these decisions.

This change of Mayor comes less than a week after the Parliament approved a new rule on electing the capital city’s Mayor. Instead of the President, an elected City Council (Sakrebulo) will elect the head of the city after local elections, scheduled for autumn, 2006.

When asked if Gigi Ugulava will be the ruling party’s nominee for Mayor during the local elections, Saakashvili responded that “more than a year is left before the elections and let’s see how Ugulava will perform during that time.”

“I am sure that Gigi Ugulava is a very good nomination. I have known him since those times when we both worked in the NGO sector [before the 2003 Rose Revolution] and I am sure he will successfully continue reforms, which are underway in Tbilisi City Hall,” Zurab Tchiaberashvili, ex-Mayor of Tbilisi, told Rustavi 2 television.

The new nomination was also welcomed by Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze. “I am very positive about Gigi Ugulava’s nomination. He has both ability and a possibility to take charge of this very honorable responsibility. I hope he will make very active steps from the very first day of his appointment. Tbilisi needs it very much, because the capital city has huge possibilities for further development. Of course much has been done, but there is the possibility of doing even more in a shorter period of time,” the Parliamentary Chairperson told Imedi television.

She also said that the President has been considering possible changes in City Hall for a long time already; thus confirming those speculations which have occassionally surfaced over the past several months.

The last in this series of media speculations sparked earlier on July 12,  predicting these changes in the City Hall. But both Tchiaberashvili and Ugulava denied these speculations. “Such rumors have a character of a well-planned campaign,” Tchiaberashvili told reporters before President announced the new appointment.
Zurab Tchiaberashvili, who has never been an activist of the National Movement party, was thought to be confronted by a group of influential parliamentarians from the ruling party, including Giorgi Arveladze and Davit Kirkitadze. Although Gigi Ugulava has also never been an active member of the National Movement, he has affiliated himself with the party, and Saakashvili personally, recently.

At a news conference on July 12, President Saakashvili said that “a Mayor needs to be strongly supported by the party,” hinting that Ugulava will need the National Movement’s support in order to maintain office after the 2006 local elections.

Gigi Ugulava, once a civil society activist, became Deputy Security Minister shortly after the 2003 Rose Revolution. His role at the Security Ministry was especially visible during the standoff between the Georgia’s central authorities and defiant ex-Adjarian leader Aslan Abashidze. In September, 2004 he was appointed by the President as the Governor of Samegrelo in western Georgia – one of the most troubled regions in the country, which borders breakaway Abkhazia. After seven months, he was promoted to Chief of the President’s Administration in April, 2005.

“My city is definitely beautiful, but I wish it to be more beautiful – this will be my slogan while in office,” Ugulava told reporters after the new appointment.


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