“InterPressNews” interviewed Soso Tsintsadze, political scientist
-Mr. Soso, how would you assess the fact that Vano Merabishvili became the Prime Minister? It is clear that the authorities brought into play their most important resource before the elections, but we can assume that at the same time they announced the following as well: in the case of the ruling party's victory in the elections, under the new constitution, perhaps, the first person, i.e., the Prime Minister, will be the former Interior Minister, Vano Merabishvili.
-If after the elections Merabishvili is the first person, i.e., the Prime Minister, I would assess it as a positive fact, proceeding from the current reality. However, this issue is yet to be decided, because the incumbent President has not made a final decision about whether he will be or not the Prime Minister. The Constitution and the international practical experience do not prohibit Saakashvili from becoming the Prime Minister. No one can say that there is no democracy in Iceland; that human rights are violated and there’s an authoritarian regime there, but in that country, the recently elected President held office for a fifth term. I am not aware of what happens in the backroom of the authorities. I don’t know what kind of options and models are being discussed, but I can only say that if the ruling party wins the elections, the Constitution does not prohibit it from appointing a suitable person as Prime Minister. Which party will be the ruling? It is also undecided, since the elections are to be held. According to my estimation, the ruling party will still be "Natsionaluri Modzraoba" (National Movement), but there are other considerations as well. All the versions have a right to existence. If after the elections Merabishvili is the Prime Minister, it will not surprise me. The population of Georgia is aware of what Merabishvili did. We know what kind of manager and executive he is. As for the opposition candidate, we know that Ivanishvili is a good businessman. I am not a supporter of Ivanishvili, but on the other hand, I also strongly oppose the fact that his capital is considered to be totally a Russian one. I do not support him not because the he earned money in Russia, but because I have other arguments.
-Firstly the President and then Vano Merabishvili announced that the main priorities will be employment, agriculture development and availability of healthcare. It’s obvious that Merabishvili is a good manager, but only three months remain before the elections, and it is difficult to assume that it’s possible to do something tangible...
-Merabishvili is really a good manager, but he does not have a magic stick, with which he would be able to transform Georgia into a country where the unemployment problem will be solved quickly, the pensions will increase and the living standards will improve in three months. Such things did not happen anywhere and we are not going to be an exception. I do not think that Merabishvili will be charged for these three months with the duty of solving the strategic tasks. I do not think the fact that Merabishvili became the Prime Minister will only be focused on the elections. In my opinion, hi promotion is oriented on a distant perspective, because the ruling party's main strategy and the figure have already been identified.
The President meets every day with the population of this or that region. Neither Sarkozy nor Hollande had such an active and intense election campaign and nor the Egyptian President. Sometimes one is under the impression that all depends on one person. If others go out and meet with the people, it’s better for them not to appear at all. This concerns not only the ruling party, but those who share the government's position, and consider themselves to be experts.
-Many people connect the appointment of Merabishvili to the post of Prime Minister with a strengthening of the repressive machine. Do you think the same way?
-No, I do not think so. On the contrary, I expect the opposite result. Let's view things in a sober light; if Merabishvili had wanted to strengthen the repressive machine, could someone prevent him from doing this? Does it mean that Merabishvili wanted to implement more actively the repressive machine and someone prevented him? It is impossible. Three months is a little time, but it’s quite enough for the Prime Minister to make some changes. I do not exclude that one or two comical ministers will be replaced.
-Under the legislation, the ruling party has from 10 to 30 days for the presentation of the new cabinet of the government, but, as it was stated, the new cabinet will be announced in the near future. In your opinion, what will be the membership of the new cabinet?
-In my opinion, Merabishvili has a very little time for the selection of a new cabinet. The fact that the statement about the appointment of Merabishvili to the post of the Prime Minister was made day the after the closure of the spring session of the Parliament, indicates that this decision was a surprise for the Parliament. Due to the fact that I do not know what is going on behind the scenes, it's hard for me to talk about the composition of the new government. In most cases, the government does not expect major changes. At best, one or two comical ministers are likely to be replaced. However, I will not be surprised if Merabishvili doesn’t change the cabinet of the government at this stage.
-In your opinion, what will be the response of the West and Russia to the fact that Merabishvili became the Prime Minister? What attitude will Putin have to a likely successor to Saakashvili? By the way, despite the fact that in 2006 the Russian agents were arrested by the Interior Ministry, Merabishvili was the only one person from Saakashvili’s team, who was almost always mentioned in a positive context by the Russian media. . .
-I think the West will have a neutral response. In any case, the negative response is ruled out, as it’s is usual in the West, when a politician may be the Interior Minister, tomorrow – the Premier Minister, the day after tomorrow – the Minister of Ecology. As for Russia, Merabishvili gave more interviews to the Russian press than to the Georgian. In these interviews, Merabishvili has always been able to bypass hot-button issues. His interviews have always been more pragmatic and he has never been aggressive. In my opinion, no one believes in Russia that Merabishvili is a Russophobe. I don’t think that Putin's attitude toward this person is decisive. Putin's attitude toward Georgian leaders is determined by the foreign policy course of Georgia. 2014 is approaching, and it will be crucial to NATO - Georgia relations.
If in 2014 we will hear from Brussels that Georgia has done much, but many more things have to be done, and sooner or later we will join NATO, it will be a very unpleasant message to the Georgian population, however it will be a very definite and specific message to Russia.
Let's not forget the president's statement, which was made after the summit in Chicago – in 2014 NATO will not have any excuse to refuse us NATO membership. If during Merabishvili’s premiership it’s possible to find modus vivendi with Russia concerning our relationship with NATO, which I think is virtually impossible, the only thing that Putin will never accept is the pro-Western course of Georgia. In this respect, whoever is the leader in Georgia, nothing will change essentially, despite the fact that Merabishvili’s policy toward Russia may not be so sharp as the current President’s. But it will not affect Russia's policy. Russia demands from us not loyal statements, but real steps. Moreover, for some reason we ignored Putin’s last big dream - the Eurasian Union. After it will be decided the issue of Ukraine's accession to the Eurasian Union, Georgia and several other former republics will come into question. Therefore, I can not place emphasis on the personification of Merabishvili’s personality. The question refers to the foreign policy course of this country. Provided that the course is changed, Russia’s attitude toward Georgia will change too.