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article imageGeorgian PM announces resignation

By AFP     Sep 2, 2019 in World

Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze announced his resignation on Monday, sparking speculation about his successor in a country rocked by anti-government protests accusing the authorities of ties to Russia.

Bakhtadze, 37, who has been in office since June 2018, also thanked Bidzina Ivanishvili -- the billionaire head of the increasingly unpopular ruling Georgian Dream party -- widely believed to be calling the shots in Georgia, for his "support and confidence.

"I took the decision to resign from my post as I think that at this stage I've accomplished my mission," Bakhtadze told a press conference, adding that he "has no intention of remaining in active politics."

He said consultations were on in the ruling party to select his successor and that the annoucement would be made on Thursday.

Georgian media reported that the powerful Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia could become the next prime minister.

Gakharia's appointment is likely to further fuel the already tense political atmosphere in the tiny Black Sea nation of some 3.7 million.

In late June, thousands of anti-governmnet protesters took to the streets in Tbilisi after a Russian MP gave a speech in the Georgian parliament, a hugely provocative move for two countries whose ties remain strained after a brief war in 2008.

Protesters demanded Gakharia's resignation after riot police used rubber bullets and tear gas against the largely peaceful rally. Dozens were injured and several people lost an eye in the violent police crackdown.

The rallies then evolved into a broader movement against Ivanishvili amid widespread anger at his party's failure to kick-start a stagnant economy and Georgia's perceived democratic backsliding.

Moscow reacted to what it called "Russophobic" protests by suspending direct flights between the countries.

Bakhtadze's predecessor as prime minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, had stepped down after two-and-a-half years in power amid mass protests that exposed a dramatic drop in his government's popularity.

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