MP Tina Khidasheli, who has become Georgia’s first ever female defense minister, met chief of general staff of the armed forces Gen. Vakhtang Kapanadze.
“It was an introductory meeting for me as there are lots of activities going on in the defense area on which I do not yet possess information,” Khidasheli said. “I am confident that our main goal to become a NATO member as soon as possible is achievable and together with Mr. Kapanadze we will do everything in order to speed up this process.”
“I have no doubt that this [appointment of Khidasheli as defense minister] will yield positive results for the armed forces,” Gen. Kapanadze said after the meeting with the new defense minister in Parliament chamber in Kutaisi.
PM Irakli Garibashvili named MP Khidasheli from Georgian Dream coalition’s Republican Party as new defense minister on Friday morning. Few hours later the PM signed a decree on her appointment.
While Khidasheli is already appointed as defense minister, she also retains her MP credentials, which is not in line with the legislation.
Parliament is expected to start procedures for revoking Khidasheli’s MP credentials next week, according to chairman of parliamentary committee for procedures, GD MP Giorgi Kakhiani.
The same applies to another GD lawmaker from the Republican Party, Gigla Agulashvili, who was appointed on May 1 as new minister of environment. Also on May 1 the PM appointed Tariel Khechikashvili as new minister of sport and youth affairs.
Khidasheli, who chairs parliamentary committee for European integration, was elected in the legislative body as a majoritarian MP from Sagarejo single-mandate constituency in the Kakheti region. Her appointment in the cabinet means that by-election has to be held in October in Sagarejo constituency to fill a vacant seat in the Parliament.
Khidasheli replaced Mindia Janelidze, who held defense minister’s post since November, 2014 when then defense minister Irakli Alasania was sacked.
Alasania, leader of opposition Free Democrats party, said earlier on May 1 that he was very glad that Georgia will have female defense minister.
“I want to give her several advises – to take care of soldiers, to continue the path, which we chose for strengthening of country’s defense capabilities, involving procuring of air defense and other capabilities. I know Tina Khidasheli and I hope that she will take care of soldiers; time will show the rest. The rest will depend on to what extent she will be able to be guided by the interests of the country and not by loyalty towards any political figure,” Alasania told journalists in the town of Gori, where he opened a local office of his Free Democrats party.
The reshuffled cabinet will face confidence vote in the Parliament, which initially was planned for this week, but was delayed after President Giorgi Margvelashvili’s decision to use his seven-day deadline in full before submitting the reshuffled cabinet to the Parliament for consideration.
Margvelashvili complained about frequent change of defense ministers and suggested that a surprise announcement by PM Garibashvili to change three cabinet members, instead of initially planned two, leaves an impression that the government operates in a “force majeure mode.”
PM’s office said in a statement that although “the government continues to work in its usual mode”, the fact that the Parliament has yet to hold confidence vote on the reshuffled cabinet “creates certain inconvenience in the relations with our western partners”, especially ahead of number of important upcoming events – EBRD’s annual meeting in Tbilisi in two weeks, as well as EU’s Eastern Partnership summit in Riga on May 21-22; the statement also notes that over 10 foreign trips by Georgian ministers are planned next week.
“It is regrettable that the President did not take into consideration above mentioned circumstance and technically delayed confidence vote in the parliament for a week,” PM’s office said.