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article imageGeorgia deputy to step in after PM's resignation

By Irakli Metreveli (AFP)     Dec 25, 2015 in Politics

Georgia's president on Friday nominated vice premier Giorgi Kvirikashvili as the new head of government after the surprise resignation of Irakli Garibashvili.

President Giorgi Margvelashvili said he had submitted Kvirikashvili's candidacy to parliament for approval after the country's ruling coalition threw its support behind the 48-year-old economist as it struggles to boost popularity ahead of key parliamentary polls next year.

In brief comments to reporters, Kvirikashvili, who until now also served as foreign minister, said he was planning "some change -- not a dramatic one" to the cabinet.

The 33-year-old Garibashvili suddenly resigned on Wednesday after just two years on the job without explaining his decision.

He became Europe's youngest head of government when he was appointed at age 31 in November 2013.

He welcomed Kvirikashvili's nomination, praising it as a "very good choice".

Georgia's Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili  now 33  became the youngest head of government in...
Georgia's Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, now 33, became the youngest head of government in Europe when he was appointed to the job in November 2013
Petras Malukas, AFP/File

Opposition politicians suggested that former prime minister and billionaire tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili was behind the government shakeup ahead of parliamentary polls in October 2016.

"Unfortunately, all the political decisions in our country are being taken by one person," the leader of the opposition Free Democrats party, Irakli Alasania, told journalists.

"This would be unacceptable in a democratic society," he added.

One of the closest allis of former president Mikheil Saakashvili, Giga Bokeria, struck a similar chord.

"An unaccountable man without any official role, Bidzina Ivanishvili, shuffles the cards in Georgian politics the way he likes," Bokeria, a prominent member of the opposition United National Movement party (UNM), told AFP.

"Changes in the government make little difference, if any. Ivanishvili is the sole decision-maker in Georgia," the lawmaker added.

- 'Repairing damaged image' -

Analysts pointed to the coalition's efforts to reverse a plunge in popularity amid economic turmoil.

"Georgian Dream -- which proved incapable of handling the economic crisis and failed to deliver on its own promises to introduce democratic reforms -- is trying to repair its damaged image in the lead-up to the parliamentary elections," political analyst Helen Khoshtaria told AFP.

The three years that Georgia's ruling coalition has been in power have seen an economic slowdow...
The three years that Georgia's ruling coalition has been in power have seen an economic slowdown, rising inflation and a 44 percent devaluation of the national currency
Vano Shlamov, AFP/File

The coalition's approval rating stood at just 18 percent last month, according to an opinion poll by the US-based National Democratic Institute.

Georgian Dream -- a motley coalition of small parties assembled by Ivanishvili -- wrested power from fervently pro-Western Saakashvili's United National Movement in 2012 elections.

Ivanishvili stepped down in November 2013 to make way for Garibashvili.

After years of economic boom during Saakashvili's leadership, the ruling coalition's three years in power have brought about an economic slowdown, rising inflation and a 44 percent devaluation of the national currency.

A close ally of Ivanishvili and a technocrat with little political experience, vice premier Kvirikashvili headed the enigmatic tycoon's Cartu bank from 2006 until his appointment as economy minister in 2013.

He holds a master's degree in finance from the University of Illinois in the United States and is also a trained doctor.

In line with the Georgian constitution, Garibashvili's resignation led to the dismissal of the entire cabinet, which is serving on an interim basis until a new prime minister is appointed.

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