Mikheil Saakashvili said his future cabinet would be “much more all-inclusive” and signaled a readiness to even include political opponents.
Speaking in a live interview on Rustavi 2 TV’s late-night political talk show, Primetime, on January 8, Saakashvili said: “This election has demonstrated that public opinion is diverse… Many voters turned out at the polling stations and many did not vote for us. And no one can ignore the opinions of those who didn’t vote for us.”
“Moreover, with the opposition in mind, we have to reshuffle the current composition of the executive government and I believe that we should be much more all-inclusive and reach out to a broader circle of people for inclusion [into the cabinet].”
The TV talk show, which usually goes out on Mondays and Thursdays, interviewed Saakashvili amid a mounting political controversy involving allegations by the opposition coalition of vote rigging and calls for protest rallies. With most of the votes already counted, according to the Central Election Commission (CEC), Saakashvili with over 52% is narrowly avoiding a run-off, while the opposition claims the election administrations have manipulated the count to avoid the second round. While, Saakashvili has a slight nationwide lead, he is, however, falling behind in Tbilisi, where his main rival, Levan Gachechiladze of the nine-party coalition, has made considerable gains.
In the TV interview, Saakashvili stopped short of proposing a coalition government and instead said the focus would be on inviting individuals regardless of their party affiliation.
“If opposition parties have – and I’m sure they do – calm, well-organized, honorable patriots and professionals, we should open a door for them into the government,” he said. “It won’t be a matter of deals between political parties; it should be more about individuals who happen to be from other political parties... This is not a matter of a formal coalition. I want to say that there are many honorable people, many of whom are on TV criticizing us, who are good professionals and patriots. We will talk with those people.”
“In my second term, cabinet posts will not be decided only on party affiliation. I’ve decided this because after my second presidential term I want to bequeath a democratic Georgia and not a party-based Georgia.”
He stressed that he wanted to be “the president of the entire Georgia and not just of one party or group.”
Saakashvili also signaled a shake-up within his ruling National Movement Party, saying he would “seriously reshuffle” the party-list ahead of the parliamentary elections, which he said, would probably be held either in April or May this year.
“New and interesting and professional people will be invited to join [the party-list] and my inner circle, and we may even recruit from other parties as well,” he said.
Although the CEC still hasn’t announced even early official results of the plebiscite on the timing of the parliamentary elections, exit poll results show that over 60% of voters favored a spring date, rather than in late 2008 as the authorities had been insisting on.
Saakashvili, previously a critic of the spring proposal, seemed unperturbed by the plebiscite result, saying even he welcomed the early challenge.
He said that with the presidential election already conducted, it was now in his interest to hold parliamentary elections in spring. “So I can only welcome the plebiscite results,” he said.
Saakashvili said he would not spend much time campaigning ahead of the parliamentary elections, perhaps only a few days before polling day.
“Of course I will do all I can to ensure we have supporters of our course in Parliament, but at the same time I’ll spare no efforts on cooperating with various political parties to ensure a maximum of consensus on major issues. Our goal is to prevent a seriously polarized political situation in Parliament, which could prevent initiatives of vital national importance,” Saakashvili said.
He said that he planned to set up an all-inclusive group to outline a 50-day action plan for the implementation of his pre-election slogan – Georgian without Poverty.
Saakashvili also acknowledged once again that many mistakes had been made during his first presidential term. The abuse of property rights, which, he said, had produced “a sense of insecurity”, was the biggest one. He said that additional constitutional guarantees were planned to protect property rights.
He suggested that such abuses, mostly seen in Tbilisi, could have contributed to his relative poor performance in the capital.