Georgian president vows to cut government excess

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The Independent Online

The President of Georgia says he will leave the presidential palace and run the country from a modest office that once belonged to the chief car inspector.

Mikhail Saakashvili, the former opposition leader who is to be inaugurated on 25 January after a landslide victory in Sunday's presidential vote, also said he wanted to sell government residences used by ministers and scale back the presidential apparatus.

Mr Saakashvili said he was determined to cut the government excesses that led to the downfall of his predecessor.

He added: "The President must not have a swollen staff. We are a poor country." All ministerial dachas would also be sold, he said, even the presidential one and all proceeds would help the state budget. The 36-year-old US-educated lawyer was the driving force behind peaceful demonstrations that brought down former President Eduard Shevardnadze in November, after parliamentary elections widely seen as fraudulent.

Mr Saakashvili's victory six weeks later in the hastily called presidential elections reflects hopes that he can tackle corruption and revive the economy in Georgia, where resentment of the comfortable lifestyle of a small class of well-connected businessmen and government officials fuelled public anger.

Georgia's interim leader, Nino Burdzhanadze, has announced parliamentary elections for 28 March, and she called on Georgians to support Mr Saakashvili and his allies. "We are all members of the same team and will do all we can to help."

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