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Opposition starts presidential campaign in Georgia

The new Georgian Cabinet has been submitted to the country's parliament for consideration. But there's been no major reshuffling. Only two figures have been replaced. Meanwhile, campaigning for the presidential election in January gets underway.

Days after President Mikhail Saakashvili appointed prominent businessman and TV personality, Lado Gurgnidze, Prime Minister, changes to the cabinet of ministers have been submitted to the parliament.

“We will be using the next six weeks to get to know one another. At this stage we are only making two changes in the cabinet. This is appropriate for the time being,” Lado Gurgenidze says.

The unpopular Gia Kheviashvili, Minister for Refugees and Resettlement, will lose his post in the reshuffle. Kakha Lomaia, Minister of Education and Science and the longest serving cabinet minister, is to be moved to head of the National Security Council. He is a heavyweight figure, but Lomaia's education reforms made him a divisive figure.

The opposition, meanwhile, have stepped up their campaign. The candidate of the so-called “United opposition”, Levan Gachechiladze, visited a market in Tbilisi on Monday, but for some voters, it seems his message isn't getting through.

But the united opposition has other things to worry about. They are no longer as united as they once were.

The Labour Party, formerly a member of the coalition, has nominated their own candidate for the presidency – the flamboyant Shalva Natelashvili.

“I cannot entrust the seat of the president of Georgia to anybody but myself,” Labour Party leader Shalva Natelashvili notes.

With Natelashvili in the running, Saakashvili will now face at least four opposition candidates, creating the possibility that the anti-government vote will be split.

In the meantime, the opposition leaders are planning more protests and promising a tough campaign. But the government now has a popular and respected Prime Minister, and has replaced some less popular figures. With just over six weeks till polling day there is still everything to play for.