Mikheil Saakashvili said he no longer needed “a revolutionary team” and vowed, if re-elected, “to fundamentally reshuffle” his political team and make it “more all-inclusive.”
Speaking live on a Rustavi 2 TV political talk show after midnight on December 28, Saakashvili named three cabinet members, who would definitely not be affected by the anticipated reshuffle: Koba Subeliani, the minister for refugees and accommodation; Eka Tkeshelashvili, the justice minister; and Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze.
He refused, however, to be drawn on whether other key figures in his administration, who have been the focus of much opposition criticism, would remain in position. There have in particular been calls for the resignation of Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili; Kakha Bendukidze, the state minister in charge of economic reforms; and lawmaker Giga Bokeria.
Saakashvili said his intentions would be made known the day after his presumed presidential inauguration.
He did, however, say a new mandate would give him “the moral right to replace” even some of his closest allies.
“And they know it too and there is full consensus on this issue within our team,” Saakashvili said. “Everyone agrees that renewal is needed and everyone agrees that fundamental changes are needed.”
“So, I need a mandate, a big mandate, from my people to carry out a fundamental reshuffle of the current political team. Many of them will find a new place, some of them will be moved to [other positions] and others will resign. I will need a team which will be focused on fighting poverty, on creating new jobs and which is capable of understanding each and every individual’s difficulties and problems; I need a team with one heart, but a professional heart.
He said that “fundamental changes” were needed to ensure that the country moved onto a new stage of development after the presidential election.
“A reshuffle is needed, because my team, which was established four years ago, was a revolutionary team, very passionate and vigorous; very many decisive actions were needed and sometimes very sharp and sometimes even painful actions were needed to be undertaken,” Saakashvili said. “But now I need a team, which will be more professional, which will be more sober-headed and much more concentrated and much more all-inclusive… with professionals regardless of their age… There are many people in lower level [management] whose performance has been excellent and who should be promoted. But there are some whose performance has been poor and I have noticed it, so there will be a serious reshuffle.”
Saakashvili's comments follow a similar pledge on December 22 to affect changes at the highest levels. At that time he also promised to jettison his hard-line style. A day earlier, Nino Burjanadze, the acting president, also signalled a post-election shake-up.