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Saakashvili seeks to engage minorities

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, June 14
President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili re-opened the newly rehabilitated Public Administration School named after late Prime Minister of Georgia Zurab Zhvania in Kutaisi on June 12. Saakashvili initiated establishing the School of Public Administration in 2005 in order to integrating the non-Georgian population with the rest of the local community by teaching Georgian, the official language, to members of ethnic minorities in the remote mountanous regions to help them gain employment.

15 ethnic Armenian and 15 ethnic Azerbaijani public officials working in Government and local government institutions in various nearby regions will soon undertake intensive courses in Georgian and English and human resource management at the Public Administration School. “Education is one of the main means of promoting Georgia in various respects. Children will be able to start school at the age of 5 from 2010 and all first graders will receive a personal computer which will introduce them to a new psychology and mentality,” the President told the audience, stressing the importance of the school for Georgian statehood and the unity of the peoples of the Caucasus.

“This country belongs to us all, not a particular political group. Let God save us from returning to psychological sickness,” said the President, referring to the Soviet Era when Russia dominated the other countries around it who were trapped in a closed circle. “Zurab Zhvania was a very interesting political phenomenon and this school named after Zhvania is very important for our country - it encourages different ethnic groups to participate in governing the country. Georgia should be a source of pride for all its citizens regardless of their origin. Everything is based on intelligence and patriotism. Let’s cross the borders of alienation,” said the President, adding that he would be the representative of any of ethnic or religious group which others hate but would remain a Georgian patriot despite this.

Saakashvili said that conducting reforms to ensure political development of the country after 2013 is very important to him. “As soon as the local elections were over the main subject of discussion became 2013 [the Presidential elections] and the “terrible Saakashvili”. The new State Constitution in Georgia will be democratic, European and the most open model ever, meaning more people will have an opportunity to participate in governance regardless of their origin or location. Georgia will have many new leaders by that time as the country will have a new President and a highly representative Government. I can’t say who those people will actually be – I just hope that a team of reformers will continue in the same direction and more political parties become engaged in this process,” the President added, stressing that participation in the reform process is necessary to ensure a calm transition of power. Saakashvili highlighted that he aims not to keep his own team and friends in power but to conduct successful reforms, so that no “thief-in-law” (legalised gangster) can bribe a state institution and policemen will not stand in the streets with sticks [to control traffic with and fine people illegally].

“This is the first time that the other political parties have confirmed the accuracy of the results of the local elections in our country. The parties spoke to the people during their campaigns and realised they were not at all interested in political intrigues. Our people have gained much experience and expanded their political spectrum. This election was called the most democratic in the whole post-Soviet space,” Saakashvili said, stressing that the Georgian people know the meaning of patriotism and betrayal and those who think they can go running to Prime Minister of Russia Vladimir Putin in Red Square will not deceive the experienced Georgian electors.

Political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze told The Messenger that after Saakashvili’s interview with French newspaper Le Monde the President should have addressed the succession issue differently. “The interview in Le Monde left readers concerned that Saakshvili was going to keep his current political team in power after 2013, and that’s perhaps why he tried to counterbalance this concern by talking about the future from a different perspective,” Sakvarelidze explained, referring to Saakashvili’s “readiness” to welcome new faces into Government.

Nika Chitadze excluded Saakashvili participating in Presidential elections for a third time, saying that Saakashvili may run again but not in 2013. “The State Constitution doesn’t allow a third consecutive term of Presidency. But if Saakashvili becomes Prime Minister he will have more authority than the next President, as under the new draft constitution the President can’t set internal and foreign policy. Georgia needs new faces in Government and the engagement of experienced politicians even in reforms would be quite beneficial for our country,” Chitadze said, stressing that good governance is the most important aspect of the country’s political life, which should be absolutely transparent and abolish partiality within State and public institutions.