TBILISI, July 4 (Itar-Tass) — The Georgian parliament approved Vano Merabishvili as the country’s prime minister by 102 votes to 7 at an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday. The deputies also voted for the renewed cabinet of ministers and a government action program.
Vano Merabishvili used to be Georgia’s interior minister known for his efforts to reform the Georgian police force and fight corruption. He also has experience in implementing socio-economic projects. Merabishvili has pledged to fight Georgia’s high unemployment rate, develop agriculture and make public health available to all Georgians.
Mass unemployment is one of the key economic woes in today’s Georgia. The opposition claims that from 30% to 40% of able-bodied population is out of job. However, the authorities put the unemployment rate at 15%-20%.
Georgia’s opposition had described Merabishvili’s appointment as an attempt by Saakashvili to decrease public discontent ahead of the forthcoming parliamentary elections in October and increase the number of his supporters.
In the meantime, opposition Christian Democratic Movement and the Georgian Dream coalition see Merabishvili’s appointment as prime minister as an attempt to turn Georgia into a police state.
Vano Merabishvili is 44 years old. In 1999-2003, he was a deputy of the Georgian parliament and the head of the economic policy committee; in 2002, he became the general secretary of the United National Movement which came to power after the resignation of Eduard Shevardnadze. Merabishvili took an active part in the “Revolution of Roses” in Georgia in 2003. After Mikhail Saakashvili rose to power, Merabishvili was first the secretary of the Georgian Security Council; he was appointed the country’s interior minister in December 2004.
Merabishvili is considered to be one of the most influential figures in the Georgian leadership. Saakashvili used to call him the backbone of power and an experienced and competent worker.
According to President Mikhail Saakashvili, Merabishvii made a big contribution to establishing law and order and fighting crime as well as cleaning Georgia’s law enforcement from corruption.
In recent years, most Georgian opposition parties have criticized Merabishvili for exceeding powers, excessive concentration of power and persecution of opposition members.