Saakashvili names finance minister as new Georgia PM

Saakashvili named 33-year-old Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Nika Gilauri to the post.

Saakashvili names finance minister as new Georgia PM

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili named the fifth prime minister of his five-year rule on Friday after Grigol Mgaloblishvili resigned citing ill health after just months in the job.

Saakashvili named 33-year-old Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Nika Gilauri to the post, which Mgaloblishvili had held since Nov 1.

"We carried out a mechanical reshuffle. The first deputy prime minister becomes prime minister, while his deputy (Kakha Baindurashvili) becomes finance minister," Saakashvili told a televised meeting of the cabinet.

Gilauri's appointment will be submitted for approval by parliament, where Saakashvili's United National Movement holds a strong majority.

He becomes the fifth prime minister since Saakashvili came to power on the back of the November 2003 "Rose Revolution" promising stability and reform.

The change marks the latest government upheaval in a country reeling from war with Russia in August, when Moscow's crushing counterstrike repelled a Georgian military assault on breakaway South Ossetia.

"We should be working like a military headquarters," Saakashvili said. "We should be working day and night to create new jobs and to save our economy."

Mgaloblishvili, 35, blamed his poor health, after two bouts of treatment in Germany for a kidney condition.

"According to the doctors, I need another two months of intensive treatment," he told a news conference. "Georgia cannot afford to have a prime minister who is not in good shape."

He thanked Saakashvili and said he could rely on his support after his recovery. Georgian media reports have spoken of a rift between the two, with Saakashvili increasingly disappointed with the prime minister's performance.

Georgian and Russian media reported last month that Saakashvili hit Mgaloblishvili during an argument.

Saakashvili has publicly denied this, and Mgaloblishvili said on Friday: "The president made a detailed comment on this, I don't think I need to comment further."

The change will nevertheless fuel opposition criticism of Saakashvili's style of government. His opponents accuse him of having an autocratic streak that has stifled media freedom and concentrated power on a handpicked inner circle.

Criticism of Saakashvili grew after the August conflict, with opponents accusing Saakashvili of walking into a war Georgia could not possibly win. Russia has recognised South Ossetia and the second breakaway region of Abkhazia as independent states, and stationed thousands of troops in both.

Around a dozen opposition parties issued a joint declaration on Thursday calling on Saakashvili to resign. He has ruled out quitting.

Reuters
Last Mod: 31 Ocak 2009, 17:50
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