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Opposition Slams Akhalaia’s Appointment as Defense Minister
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 28 Aug.'09 / 15:38

Opposition politicians have condemned Bacho Akhalaia’s appointment as Defense Minister, saying that the decision sealed powerful Interior Ministry’s control of the army.

Akhalaia, who is regarded as Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili’s associate and President Saakashvili’s close ally, replaced on the post Davit Sikharulidze on August 27. He gained controversy while serving on the post of chief of prison system from 2005 till December, 2008, when he was appointed as deputy defense minister.

Davit Usupashvili, leader of Republican Party, part of Alliance for Georgia, described this change in the cabinet as “the most dangerous appointment ever made by Saakashvili” during his presidency.

“It creates new threats of reoccurrence of [military] adventures, which is also a dangerous message to all of our international partners, as well as to those people serving in the military,” Usupashvili told Civil.Ge on August 28.

Conservative Party, led by Kakha Kukava and Zviad Dzidziguri, said in a statement that Akhalaia’s appointment “is a step towards army’s criminalization and destruction”. It said that Akhalaia “represents the most criminal group within the authorities.”

“By this decision Saakashvili has made a choice – he needs the army for protecting his regime, instead of protecting the state,” Conservative Party said.
Georgia’s Way party, led by Salome Zourabichvili, said in a statement that the appointment marks “full merger of the army to the Interior Ministry, which is against the democratic principle of army’s depolitization”.

“We call on our western partners and first of all to Americans, as major sponsors of our army’s development, to pay attention to a deliberate process of aggression carried out against the Georgian army,” the party said.

Levan Gachechiladze, an opposition politician and founder of public movement Defend Georgia, said in a statement on August 28, that Akhalaia’s appointment showed Saakashvili “is not serious about reform or democratization and seems intent on increasing repression.”

Meanwhile, the new Defense Minister told journalists on August 28 that he would outline his priorities in three words: “modernization, peace and NATO integration.” He also added: “we need to increase defense capabilities of the army to secure peace.” He also said there “is no alternative to NATO integration.”

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