Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 153

With 122 votes in favor and two opposed, the Georgian parliament approved the nomination of Vazha Lortkipanidze as state minister (approximate equivalent of a prime minister) on August 7. Most of the opposition declined to vote. This appointment is the first step in President Eduard Shevardnadze planned government reshuffle. Addressing the chamber, Lortkipanidze listed the government’s top priorities as: settlement of the Abkhazia and South Ossetia conflicts and restoration of the county’s territorial integrity; continuation of economic reforms, “to which there is no alternative;” combating corruption and rejuvenating the government and state administration; inserting Georgia in the Europe-Central Asia transit corridor and the Caspian oil export route; strengthening relations with the West; and pursuing “equitable, friendly relations with Russia.”

Several ministerial vacancies were filled on August 8. Most ministers are yet to be appointed, following the recent resignation of the government. Local observers assume that Lortkipanidze’s close relationship with Shevardnadze will enable the new State Minister to exercise greater authority than his predecessor Niko Lekishvili ever did. Lortkipanidze himself stated that his powers under the existing constitutional setup will enable him to play an activist role in internal and foreign policy. (Prime-News, August 7 and 8; for a profile of Lortkipanidze see the Monitor, July 31)