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TSU council elects new rector

By Tatia Megeneishvili
Monday, August 19
Vladimer (Lado) Papava, professor of economics, was elected as Tbilisi State University's (TSU) new rector, with 10 votes against 2. The post became vacant after the former rector, Alexander Kvitashvili, resigned in June this year.

Papava said that no one takes part in elections, if he does not expect victory. "But I did not know that I would win with such a majority of votes,” he said. Papava thinks that this is an expression of great trust from the academic board and from the whole TSU.

Papava also made comment about his plans. He said that his main goal is to raise education standards at the university to an international level. "University students should be involved in scientific research and creative activity. The most important thing is independent of the university. There are many tasks to be solved by all," said Papava.

A senior fellow at the Tbilisi-based think tank – Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (GFSIS), Papava served as Georgia’s economy minister from 1994-2000. He also was a member of Parliament (2004-2008), as well as the member of the then parliamentary majority United National Movement (UNM) which he quit in November 2007.

13 candidates participated at the rector elections on August 16 at TSU. The former head of the university, Kvitashvili did not take part in voting; he said in 2010 he was elected with 12 votes. However, he did not vote for anyone, saying he did not want his 13th voice to be decisive.

Students held a rally in front of TSU during the elections, insisting on fair elections. However, after the election results became public, they welcomed the fact that no politically motivated person has been elected as rector.

One of the organizers of the rally, Levan Lortkipanidze, said that it was only the first step forward. “We think that all the professors must take part in such a serious process, for this we will continue fighting," he said.

Member of the academic board, Zurab Davitashvili, said that the students' statement is groundless, "This is a representative model, with the same logic we must not have 150 members in parliament," he stressed.

According to the chairman of the election commission and TSU's Associate Professor, David Bostoghanashvili, the elections were held in a peaceful environment, without any incidents. “There was not a single complaint," he said. Aleksandre Shengelia, a member of the academic board, congratulated Papava with the victory, saying that this election is an example of democratic elections – it was absolutely free from any kind of pressure and the worthy candidate became the winner. Nine NGOs observed the election.

The Georgian Young Lawyers Association estimates that the election of the new rector at TSU was fair and transparent. The secrecy of the vote was also protected.

PhD student at TSU, Vakhtang Charaia, thinks it was the most transparent and democratic election at Tbilisi State University in the last decade. “I really appreciate the choice of the TSU Academic Council and I think they have made the best decision they could,” he said, adding that wining the election is not enough, as Papava has to meet the students’ expectations now. “He has to improve the standards at TSU for academic staff, students and the whole educational process. He also has to improve the financial situation of the university. There are a lot of other small technical problems as well, so he really has to do his best to solve all those problems and it will not be easy,” he told The Messenger, confident that everything is manageable and the new rector will handle it.