Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has inaugurated the country's new parliament building in the city of Kutaisi, some 220 kilometers (150 miles) from the capital Tbilisi.

Saakashvili said moving the parliament to Kutaisi, in west-central Georgia, would help unify the country and devolve power from Tbilisi. He told the legislature's first session in the new building Saturday that "we have fought so that Georgia would not have a single elite and that the country would not be managed from a single street."

Critics have said the move could be aimed at marginalizing the legislature.

Construction of the building sparked controversy because a massive Soviet war memorial was demolished to clear the site. The monument was razed in an explosion that killed a woman and her eight-year-old daughter who were spectators.