Defense Minister Tina Khidasheli. (Interpressnews.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–Defense Minister Tina Khidasheli on Monday controversially signed a decree ending compulsory military service with immediate effect.

In April, Khidasheli said she expected the professional army system to be introduced in 2017. Monday’s decree brings the change forward to before the parliamentary election in October.

Other members of the government expressed dissatisfaction with the move (see our follow-up article).

Addressing journalists, she explained that the she decided to introduce the reform by decree because the attempt to do it through legislative reform hasn’t worked out.

Ending the draft was one of the Georgian Dream coalition’s election promises in 2012. A bill that was prepared under directions of former Defense Minister Irakli Alasania was approved by the judiciary committee in parliament in November 2015, and the defense ministry began announcing contracts for military personnel the following month.

Khidasheli argued in May that a smaller, professional army compatible with NATO standards is better than having a larger conscription army because it is impossible for a small country to defend itself against a much larger enemy, referring to Russia.

She also said the reason Georgia isn’t able to build a navy any time soon is financial constraints.

“Creating a navy isn’t only a matter of motivated and properly trained military personnel. In order to have a navy we would need […] hundreds of millions lari, which Georgia doesn’t have,” Khidasheli said.