TBILISI (Eurasianet)–Tbilisi has begun to tighten its control over the strategic territory of Ajaria–with the passage of a draft bill on Ajarian autonomy that would allow Georgia’s president to disband the Supreme Council–the Ajarian parliament–as well as the Ajarian prime minister’s cabinet. The prime minister would be appointed by the Georgian president and approved by the Supreme Council. The Georgian parliament would also be able to overwrite legislation passed by the Ajarian legislature.
During the parliamentary debate–Republican Party deputy Ivliane Khaindrava denounced the bill for imposing "direct [presidential] rule . . . has nothing in common with [Ajaria’s] autonomous status," Civil Georgia reported. The bill was passed in its first reading on June 25.
In March–Ajaria’s president Aslan Abashidze declared a state of emergency and Ajarian defense forces appeared poised to clash with the Georgian military.
Abashidze unilaterally ruled Georgia’s western region of Ajaria for more than a decade. But Saakashvili imposed an economic blockade that forced the Ajarian leadership to back down–and recognize Tbilisi’s authority.
When Abashidze went into exile on May 6–and Ajaria came under direct presidential rule–regional residents became concerned that Tbilisi may take advantage of the transition period to curtail many of Ajaria’s "autonomous" privileges.