Washington briefing: Georgian government reshuffled

by Emil Sanamyan and Lusine Sarkisyan

Published: Saturday November 01, 2008

Grigol Mgaloblishvili, Georgia's 35-year-old ambassador to Turkey will replace banker Vladimir Gurgenidze as prime minister, with most other ministers keeping their positions, Georgian leader Mikhail Saakashvili announced on October 27. Mr. Gurgenidze had been in his position since November 2007 and according to Georgian commentators commanded no political influence.

Since joining the Georgian Foreign Ministry in 1995, Mr. Mgaloblishvili spent most of his time in Ankara, where he worked at the Georgian trade mission (1995-96) and the embassy (1998-2002, and as ambassador since 2004). Prior to that he was a Turkish studies student at the Tbilisi State University, where Mr. Saakashvili's mother, Giuli Alasania, was a professor of Turkish studies.

Aleksandr Skakov, a Georgia expert at the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, told Vedomosti newspaper that the appointment was evidence that "Mr. Saakashvili's political position is very weak."

He also linked the Georgian leader's political future to the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. Unlike Barack Obama, John McCain has developed a close relationship with Mr. Saakashvili.

Last week, Georgian opposition parties announced that on November 7 they will hold their first anti-government protest in months. The day is the first anniversary of street clashes between police and demonstrators in Tbilisi that led to the imposition of state of emergency and early elections in Georgia.

On October 24 Mr. Saakashvili's former ally and Parliament Speaker Nino Bourjanadze said early elections "within a reasonable timeframe" were the way out of "the grave political crisis," adding that she would soon be establishing a new political party.

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