Ex-defender Kaladze to tackle political challenges

Ex-defender Kaladze to tackle political challenges

Ex-defender Kaladze to tackle political challenges

This file photo shows AC Milan defender Kakha Kaladze (L) celebrating a goal. AFP photo

The billionaire whose opposition coalition won Georgia’s parliamentary election last week tapped two former diplomats with pro-Western views yesterday to take key positions in the government when he becomes prime minister later this month.

Bidzina Ivanishvili’s choices reinforce his pledge to maintain the former Soviet republic’s close ties with the United States and to work toward closer integration with the European Union. The new government, to be led by Ivanishvili as premier, will be confirmed after the Parliament convenes on Oct. 20.

Among the members of the next government announced yesterday are Maia Panjikidze, a former ambassador to EU countries, who will become foreign minister, and Irakli Alasania, a former ambassador to the United Nations, who will take the post of defense minister.

The future foreign minister said Georgia’s pro-Western course will not change. “Our main partner will be the U.S., and these relations should deepen. But we should not forget our neighbors, those near and far, and we should begin with relations with Russia,” Panjikidze, who served as ambassador to Germany and the Netherlands.

Former Milan star in the Cabinet

Former Dynamo Kyiv and AC Milan football star Kakha Kaladze was nominated as minister for regional development and infrastructure, as well as Ivanishvili’s second deputy prime minister. Ivanishvili, who made his fortune in Russia, has stressed the need to restore relations with Moscow, which have been severed since the two countries fought a brief war in August 2008. Moscow and Tbilisi broke diplomatic ties after Georgian forces were routed in five days in August 2008 in a war that ended with Russia recognizing breakaway South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

Ivanishvili named his close ally Irakli Garibashvili as interior minister. Veteran liberal politician David Usupashvili is set to become speaker of the new Parliament. However, some conservative and nationalist figures in Ivanishvili’s coalition were also nominated for senior parliamentary posts, showing the ideological differences within the bloc.

The pro-Western course was set by President Mikheil Saakashvili, who remains president for another year but lost the power to form the government when his party was defeated in a parliamentary election a week ago. Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream coalition will hold 83 of the 150 seats, with the remaining 67 seats under the control of Saakashvili’s party, the United National Movement.