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Burjanadze Angry at being Sidelined in Cabinet Talks
/ 4 Sep.'07 / 15:56
Civil Georgia

Nino Burjanadze, the Parliamentary Chairperson, has declared herself at odds with the executive authorities and personally with President Saakashvili after she publicly spoke out on September 4 against being, what she called, ignored prior to the recent cabinet reshuffle. She has also criticised the cabinet’s new programme.

In an unusually tough-worded statement, Burjanadze said she disapproved in particular of the nomination of the ex-finance minister, Lexo Alexishvili, as the president of the National Bank of Georgia (NBG).

“It is inadmissible,” Burjanadze said while speaking in Parliament, “that the Parliamentary Chairperson is not thoroughly involved in the consultations on such a serious issue concerning the cabinet reshuffle.”

She said that she was “only partially” involved in the consultations ahead of the planned cabinet reshuffle and that she “was not actively involved in the discussions over every ministerial candidacy.”

Burjanadze explained that her “negative” view of Alexishvili’s nomination as the central bank chief was  because she believed that Alexishvili would fail to be independent of the executive authorities.

“I want to stress that my personal attitude towards the NBG presidential nomination is negative,” Burjanadze told senior lawmakers. “I think that Mr. Alexishvili will fail to be a fully independent president of the National Bank. He will act in line with the government’s position, instead of being an opponent in the good sense of this word, as it should be in the case of the National Bank, whose chief should maintain a clear and balanced position.”

She said that side lining the parliament and its chairperson on the NGB was “especially inadmissible.” The central bank chief is responsible for providing an annual report to the legislative body.

“It is obvious that the parliament has a special relationship with the National Bank,” Burjanadze said. “I think that the National Bank should be an absolutely independent structure. This is a structure, which should maintain a balance between Parliament, Government and the Bank itself and its monetary policy. Hence, I believed that serious consultations should have taken place regarding the presidential candidate, including with the Parliamentary Chairperson.”

Lexo Alexishvili, who lost the finance minister’s portfolio in a recent cabinet reshuffle, has been nominated as the central bank chief by President Saakashvili. Incumbent NBG President Roman Gotsiridze’s resignation had been touted by the media since May when he was criticized by lawmakers from the ruling National Movement party. The media speculated that Burjanadze wanted her close ally, MP Irakli Kovzanadze, the chairman of the parliamentary committee for budgetary and financial issues, to get the job.

Burjanadze also spoke out against the reshuffled cabinet’s new programme. It, along with the new cabinet, must win the backing of Parliament.

“This is mostly a list of intentions and declarations,” Burjanadze said. “I would be glad if the government were more serious in its attitude towards Parliament and submited a more serious programme.”

Burjanadze's remarks reflected in large part comments made by opposition lawmakers, who have described the cabinet’s new programme as “a wish-list” and “a toast” with no concrete action plan involved.

While Burjanadze was speaking in Parliament, President Saakashvili was slamming opponents for criticizing the cabinet's new programme.

“Some politicians have compared this programme to toasts,” Saakashvili told reporters while visiting a newly opened agricultural processing factory in Marneuli on September 4. “If 100 agricultural enterprises; 200 new rural roads; 100 new modern hospitals; the strengthening of our country’s defense capacity; the fact that all the schools in Georgia will be similar to those in Germany and Holland; if better guarantees for social protection will be created – if all these amount to only toasts, let such toasts come true.”

He continued, saying that “there are some people, whose only function is to play the fool.” “For some people this new factory is a toast, but for the people, who work here, this is their source of income.”

Georgian media sources have already described Burjanadze’s statement as “unexpected.” It should not, however, have come as a complete shock, as she in particular and the parliament generally have been brushed aside by the executive. Burjanadze, according to media speculation, recently failed to have her candidate for the position of the chairman of the state audit agency, the Control of Chamber, accepted.

Burjanadze's broadside against the executive is not the first time she has been at odds with the president. In 2005, following Zurab Zhvania's sudden death, she unleashed a salvo against Zurab Nogaideli’s nomination as Prime Minister. She had, however, to retreat and finally endorsed Nogaideli’s nomination.

In accordance with the law, the parliament has still to approve the resignation of Roman Gotsiridze, the incumbent central bank chief and then approve a new nomination. With Burjanadze’s statement, that process is now not so clear cut, with the possibility that other candidates may throw their hats into the ring.

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