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New Rights Presidential Candidate Lays Out Priorities
/ 24 Nov.'07 / 21:02
Civil Georgia

The New Rights opposition party has formally endorsed its leader, MP Davit Gamkrelidze, as a candidate to run in the January 5 presidential elections.

Speaking at his party congress in Tbilisi on November 24, Gamkrelidze outlined his priorities in the event of being elected.

Gamkrelidze said that the January 5 elections should be the last presidential polls in Georgia.

“The presidential system has failed in Georgia,” he said. “All the presidents in Georgia have shown signs of leaning towards authoritarianism… The presidential post has become a place for charismatic chiefs obsessed with messianic ideas.”

If elected, Gamkrelidze said, he would call a referendum in April to allow the people to decide between a constitutional monarchy or a parliamentary republic.

“We, the New Rights Party, strongly support the Patriarch’s [of the Georgian Orthodox Church] suggestion for a constitutional monarchy,” Gamkrelidze said. “But if the people decide to have a parliamentary republic, I will not contest the presidency; let a non-partisan, respected public figure take this position if we have a parliamentary republic.”

He said that in the event of a constitutional monarchy, Patriarch Ilia II should be the regent. “I want to make it clear that this is solely our party’s proposal and no one, especially the authorities, should assume that the Patriarch has had any involvement in this suggestion,” Gamkrelidze said.

Gamkrelidze reiterated his party’s backing for Georgian membership of NATO. He said membership of the alliance, combined with “the normalization of relations” with Russia, would allow for the restoration of Georgia’s territorial integrity.

“I believe it [the restoration of the country’s territorial integrity] can be achieved in the next few years and I can prove it,” Gamkrelidze said. He added that he had a plan on how to do it. He did not, however, elaborate.

If elected as President, Gamkrelidze outlined priorities in need of urgent action:

• Setting the judiciary free of any political interference;

 Genuine local self-governance and holding of early local elections in April, simultaneously with parliamentary polls;

 Reform of the Interior Ministry, involving setting up of municipal police and a Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the abolition of the Department for Constitutional Security (DCS) and the Special Operations Department (SOD);

 The General Prosecutor’s Office will no longer be a separate body and will be merged into the Ministry of Justice;

 The abolition of compulsory military service; the halving of the armed forces down to 15,000; the allocation of up to 45% of the defense budget for social programs for servicemen;

  In terms of economic policy, the focus should be made on small and medium sized businesses; the encouragement of at least 20% of the population to become SME owners;

• To provide financial assistance to families to boost the country's birth rate;

• Compensation of GEL 33 million for damages inflicted on the Georgian Orthodox Church during Soviet times;

• Free medical care for the over-65s;

 Protection of the local labor market, through limitations on the flow of migrant workers. “We have all witnessed the influx of Chinese, Pakistani, Turkish workers. We should put an end to this.”

MP Irakli Iashvili of the New Rights Party and a member of the parliamentary committee for economic policy has been selected to be Prime Minister in the event of Gamkrelidze winning the presidency.

Gamkrelidze said he would, if elected, appoint attorney Shalva Shavgulidze, who has just recently joined the New Rights Party, as Justice Minister and Liana Jervalidze, an energy issues expert, as Energy Minister.

He said he wouldn’t name other members of his potential cabinet, “because there is a large choice of ministerial candidates beyond our party.”

“In God We Trust; We Have Strength” is to be the party’s pre-election campaign slogan.

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