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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI255 2009-02-06 15:06 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

DE RUEHSI #0255/01 0371506
O 061506Z FEB 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000255 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/05/2019 
AND (d) 
1. (SBU)  Summary:  As expected, Parliament confirmed Nika 
Gilauri as Prime Minister, Kakha Baindurashvili as Finance 
Minister, Dimitri Shashkin as Minister for Penitentiary, 
Probation and Legal Assistance, and Davit Tkeshelashvili as 
Minister for Regional Development and Infrastructure on 
February 6.  Notably, the parliamentary opposition, led by 
the Christian Democratic Movement (CDM), voted against 
confirmation.  The CDM's objections were procedural, since 
the opposition did not have any substantive objections to the 
candidates themselves, and budgetary.  The CDM questioned the 
decision to create two new ministries in a time of tight 
budgets and as a protest against the constant reshuffling of 
the Cabinet of Ministers.  As part of the newly created 
Ministry for Penitentiary, Probation and Legal Affairs, 
Shashkin (the current IRI chief of party) is also tasked with 
coordinating the government's efforts for the new wave of 
democratization.  Shaskin's appointment drew some criticism 
from non-parliamentary opposition leaders who accused him of 
being a pro-government supporter while working for IRI on 
political party development training programs.  End Summary. 
Confirmation of Mostly Familiar Faces 
2.  (SBU) President Saakashvili hailed the confirmations but 
also addressed growing criticism of frequent cabinet changes 
by saying that no other changes are expected because "we need 
stability".  He stressed the need for the new cabinet to have 
a permanent dialogue with society.  The confirmation was 
largely a formality in the UNM dominated Parliament.  Giorgi 
Targamadze said that although certain individuals in the 
cabinet might be acceptable, they could not support the 
Government by voting for its confirmation.  Targamadze cited 
the frequency of Cabinet reshuffles as unacceptable and 
questioned the need for new bureaucracies.  Incoming Prime 
Minister Nika Gilauri is the longest serving member of the 
GOG, having previously been Minister of Finance (2007 - 
present) and prior to that Minister of Energy (2004-2007). 
Tkeshelashvili was State Minister for Regional Issues and 
will retain much the same portfolio but will now oversee the 
newly created bureaucracy of the Ministry for Regional 
Development and Infrastructure.  Kakha Baindurashvili assumes 
the position of the Minister of Finance having served as 
Deputy Minister of Finance since 2007.  In a meeting with the 
Charge and USAID Mission Director, Baindurashvili pledged to 
continue many of Gilauri's policies at Finance, and pledged 
that the Government would soon organize a meeting with major 
international donors and civil society representatives to 
continue the dialogue on coordinating assistance.  Except for 
Shashkin, press coverage was largely muted as all the 
Ministers are familiar names and represent continuity of 
3.  (C)  Speaker of Parliament, David Bakradze, stressed to 
the diplomatic corps during a February 6 that took place 
during the vote the only reason for the reshuffle was the 
serious health problems of outgoing PM Grigol Mgaloblishvili. 
 Bakradze said Gilauri was named PM because he also held the 
position of First Deputy Prime Minister.  The same logic 
applied to the elevation of Baindurashvili from Deputy 
Finance Minister to Finance Minister.  Bakradze highlighted 
that the changes were "minimal".  He also spoke of the urgent 
need to fix the Penal system as one of Georgia's most urgent 
problems.  Bakradze said that Shashkin's background in 
Qproblems.  Bakradze said that Shashkin's background in 
democratic work and outsider status would be an asset, 
bringing new ideas to the GOG.  The Speaker also emphasized 
that the debate over the new cabinet had been fierce, and had 
lasted for more than four hours. 
Shashkin: From IRI to Minister 
4.  (C)  Shashkin spoke at length to Poloff immediately after 
the announcement of the Cabinet reshuffle and his new 
appointment.  He said that he had been approached by 
President Saakashvili in early December to take the position. 
 Shaskin said he was hesitant to accept the position but 
Saakashvili kept the pressure on.  When asked why he finally 
agreed he replied that "it's very hard to say no to the 
President".  IRI's Amcit Resident Program Officer (strictly 
protect) told Poloff that Shashkin was seeking ways to avoid 
having to accept the offer but in the end, it was impossible 
to decline.  Shashkin said he was initially skeptical of 
Saakashvili's motives, but that Saakashvili surprised him by 
saying the non-parliamentary opposition members are "not that 
bad a bunch of guys" and the GOG needed to work with them. 
According to Shashkin, Saakashvili convincingly expressed his 
desire to engage in a dialogue with the opposition groups. 
Saakashvili told Shashkin that he was well aware that his 
TBILISI 00000255  002 OF 002 
inner circle filters much of the information that comes to 
him.  Saakashvili explained that direct communication with 
all opposition leaders facilitated by an honest broker would 
be essential to successfully
 carry out the new wave of 
democratic reforms.  Because he is not a Saakashvili insider 
and has a working relationship with virtually all the 
opposition groups, Saakashvili felt Shashkin would be the 
perfect "broker". 
Skeptics Abound 
5.  (C)  Shashkin's nomination was immediately criticized by 
the Labor party, publicly calling him a UNM lackey.  (Embassy 
Note:  Shashkin said Labor members called him the next day 
asking for training.  Shashkin said they explained their 
comments were "just politics" and that they really were 
personally happy for him and respected his work.  End Note). 
Zviad Dzidziguri (Conservatives) joked that he expected 
Shashkin to put them all in jail and then "cooperate" with 
them (a jab at the dual-hatted nature of Shashkin's new 
position).  David Usupashvili (Republicans) and Dzidziguri 
expressed their thanks for his work with their parties, but 
regretted the move.  However, privately there is grumbling 
about the move.  Some fear Shashkin will share information 
with the UNM about non-parliamentary opposition strategies. 
The move also confirmed a view held by some that Shashkin has 
always had a pro UNM agenda.  (Embassy Comment:  We do not 
agree with either view; however, it is understandable that 
certain non-parliamentary parties are skeptical of the move. 
End Comment).  Shashkin told Poloff that it would take some 
time to regain his credibility in some quarters, but the 
response from the broader opposition has been fairly positive 
overall.  Giorgi Targamadze (CDM), who has probably benefited 
the most from IRI's training programs over the past year, 
told Shashkin he was personally disappointed, but happy for 
Shashkin and hoped the move represented a change for the 
better, and a sign that Saakashvili is willing to be more 
flexible.  Shashkin harbors no apparent hard feelings, 
telling Poloff that he does not blame certain 
non-parliamentary leaders for being skeptical as he would be 
as well in their shoes. 
A Strange Portfolio 
6.  (C)  IRI staff privately expressed the view to Poloff 
that the new Ministry is possibly an umbrella created 
temporarily which will eventually be split into a Minister 
for Democratic Development Position and a Minister of 
Penitentiary, Probation and Legal Assistance.  Shashkin told 
Poloff that is not all that terribly strange considering a 
key part of the new wave of reforms will be the overhaul of 
the penal system.  Speaker Bakradze made the same point to 
the diplomatic corps.  Shashkin says improving certain prison 
conditions such as access to health care and legal services 
can be a relatively quick fix.  Long term improvements such 
as refurbishing infrastructure will be much more difficult. 
Shashkin is concerned that there is little money allocated to 
the Ministry which will hinder its effectiveness.  He says he 
was told by President Saakashvili with Ministry of Interior 
Merabishvili and Justice Minister Adeishvili in attendance 
that he will have free reign to reform the system with the 
caveat that he cannot immediately fire prison directors. 
Shashkin admitted that his dual portfolio was still a work in 
progress, and he would have to first create a Ministry before 
really working out the specific details of his mandate. 
7.  (C)  Embassy Comment:  Apart from Shashkin, the reshuffle 
of the Cabinet does not represent significant change in 
overall GOG policy or priorities.  However, there has been 
Qoverall GOG policy or priorities.  However, there has been 
public grumbling about the near-constant state of flux of the 
GOG.  Public and private comments by President Saakashvili 
and Speaker Bakradze seem to indicate they too understand the 
need for some stability in the GOG.  The pick of Shashkin is 
an interesting one that can be viewed two ways.  One is, that 
if Saakashvili is truly committed to a dialogue and further 
democratization, Shashkin is probably a uniquely good pick. 
He is generally respected by all sides and has spent a large 
portion of his adult life working for democratic reform in 
Georgia.  On the other hand, Saakashvili made no secret to 
Shashkin of the pressure he feels from the US and EU member 
to speed up the reform process.  In this regard, Shashkin who 
is well known and well-regarded by both the diplomatic corps 
and NGO circles, could have been chosen as part of an attempt 
to meet international concerns.  Shashkin is well aware of 
this possibility.  Regardless of Saakashvili's motives, it is 
becoming increasingly clear that he is moving forward with 
his agenda of promised reforms.  End Comment. 


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