The Parliament of Georgia confirmed late on December 24 the new old cabinet led by Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, comprised of eleven Ministers, of which ten have retained their posts.
Ruling Georgian Dream party Lawmakers voted in support of PM Gakharia’s cabinet and program with 85 votes to 0, as the opposition MPs are still in the boycott and refusing to enter the Georgian legislature.
The Parliament appointed the only fresh face in the cabinet, Gocha Lortkipanidze as the Minister of Justice, whose predecessor Tea Tsulukiani was elected to the Parliament. The newly-confirmed Justice Minister is expected to step down in the following months, having been elected an International Criminal Court Justice.
Following Ministers, among them four women, retained their posts :
- Minister of Foreign Affairs – David Zalkaliani
- Minister of Defense – Irakli Garibashvili
- Minister of Internal Affairs – Vakhtang Gomelauri
- Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development – Natela Turnava
- Minister of Finance – Ivane Machavariani
- Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure – Maia Tskitishvili
- Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture – Levan Davitashvhili
- Minister of Reconciliation and Civic Equality – Tea Akhvlediani
- Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs – Ekaterine Tikaradze
- Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport – Mikheil Chkhenkeli
Parliamentary committees held hearings of ministerial candidates on December 21-22, while PM Gakharia appeared in front of the lawmakers yesterday, during the session of the ruling Georgian Dream faction and today, during a plenary session.
At today’s parliamentary session, PM Gakharia announced that the Government plans to reestablish the Ministry of Culture and Sport, which his predecessor Mamuka Bakhtadze abolished and merged with the Ministry of Education and Science, as part of the small-government reform plan in 2018.
PM Gakharia also presented the Government program, titled “For Building a European State,” aimed at preparing the country for EU membership application in 2024.
He underscored four key priority areas for achieving said goal, including economic development, social policy and human capital development, foreign policy, security, conflict resolution and human rights, and public governance.
PM Gakharia said economic policy for post-pandemic recovery will prioritize macroeconomic stability and fiscal consolidation. The government will consider abolishing inefficient tax cuts and privatizing underperforming state-owned enterprises, he noted.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, improving social welfare programs, reforming the public health system for increasing access to universal healthcare will also be prioritized, PM Gakharia said.
Regarding security, Gakharia highlighted the need for increased pressure on Russia to fulfill its obligations, as well as to expand the EUMM mandate to cover the Kremlin-backed regions. He added the Government will continue working on “peace initiatives” to build confidence and trust with the Abkhaz and S. Ossetian residents in the Russian occupied regions.
PM Gakharia also underscored the importance of Abashidze-Karasin meetings as the only bilateral format, aimed at resolving humanitarian and economic issues.
He said the Government will prioritize Euro-Atlantic integration, cooperation on security issues with the Western partners as well as enhancing the strategic partnership with the U.S., including by working on a Free Trade Agreement.
The four-point plan will aim at improving the professional qualifications of public servants, as well as ensuring their political neutrality, PM Gakharia said.
“When irresponsible politicians… [don’t] participate in the development of their own country,” Gakharia alluded to the boycotting opposition “the public sector is the sector that will have to meet the citizens’ interests, and it should be absolutely politically neutral.”
Opposition leaders reacted to the confidence vote and PM Gakharia’s remarks on their part. United National Movement’s Khatia Dekanoidze accused the ruling party of spreading hate and propaganda. She reiterated that the opposition is committed to the boycott, adding that “single-party parliaments usually end with a regime change.”
One of the European Georgia party leaders, Sergi Kapanadze said that since the opposition parties do not recognize the legislature, “any decisions made by the Parliament, including approving the Government, will produce a legitimation crisis.”
Lelo leader Ana Natsvlishvili on her part criticized the four-point program, arguing it was not well prepared and was filled with promises that the Government will not fulfill.
The new Georgian Parliament, elected through October 31 parliamentary elections, opened on December 11 with only Georgian Dream MPs in attendance. All eight opposition parties/blocs that crossed the 1% election threshold are refusing to enter the Parliament, citing election fraud and demanding revote, the demands the Georgian Dream party refuses to meet.