Georgian football star to become energy minister
Georgia's most famous football star, who played in Italy for the past dozen years, was nominated Tuesday to become the energy minister in the new government.
Kakha Kaladze, who was with Milan from 2001 to 2010 and spent the past two years at Genoa, was nominated by Bidzina Ivanishvili, whose opposition coalition won the Oct. 1 parliamentary election.
Ivanishvili, who will become prime minister, presented his future Cabinet on Tuesday. The candidates still need to be approved by President Mikhail Saakashvili, who has one year remaining in his second and final term.
After Saakashvili's party lost the parliamentary election, he said Ivanishvili would have the right to form the next government. Ivanishvili has pledged to maintain the former Soviet republic's close ties with the United States and to work toward closer integration with the European Union.
The president took another step Tuesday to smooth the transition by restoring Ivanishvili's Georgian citizenship.
When Ivanishvili, a billionaire businessman, announced his intention a year ago to go into politics, he was stripped of his Georgian citizenship on the grounds that he was a citizen of France.
Ivanishvili did not run in the parliamentary election, but made clear he would take the prime minister's post if his party won a majority. The president has the right to nominate the prime minister, who must then be approved by parliament.
Saakashvili defied opposition expectations that he would rig the election and cling to power at all costs. Even before full results were released, he conceded defeat, thus preserving his legacy as a democratic reformer.
The 34-year-old Kaladze announced his retirement from football in May to join Ivanishvili's campaign. Ivanishvili, Georgia's richest man, expressed confidence in Kaladze's ability to lead the ministry despite a lack of experience in the energy sector.
''Kaladze is a talented man and will be able to master a new trade,'' he told reporters.
The footballer's father, Karlo Kaladze, told The Associated Press that his son holds a degree in history from a Georgian university.
Kaladze promised to give priority to renewable energy and said Georgia should abandon its plans to build hydro-power plants.
''We don't want to develop the energy sector at the expense of the environment,'' he said. ''Wind and solar energy may be quite expensive, but we should think about moving in that direction.''
Ivanishvili last week tapped two former diplomats with pro-Western views to become foreign minister and defense minister, but said he needed more time to fill some of the other posts.
Ivanishvili's government will begin its work after the newly elected parliament meets for the first time on Sunday.