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Georgian Prime Minister Resigns

Critics had dismissed Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili (left) of simply being a pawn for influential tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili (right)
Critics had dismissed Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili (left) of simply being a pawn for influential tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili (right)

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has resigned, an abrupt move that has injected fresh political uncertainty into the former Soviet republic less than a year before parliamentary elections.

Garibashvili, 33, said in a televised address on December 23 that he was leaving to show an "example to the young generation."

"I've made a decision today to resign from the post of prime minister," he said. "I'm leaving this position today, but will remain a loyal soldier of my motherland."

"All posts are temporary. Only God and the motherland are eternal," he added.

The Paris-educated Garibashvili was a political unknown before former prime minister and billionaire tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili named him interior minister in October 2012. The move came after Ivanishvili's coalition headed by his Georgian Dream party routed supporters of former President Mikheil Saakashvili.

In November 2013, Garibashvili became the youngest head of government in Europe when he was appointed prime minister.

His opponents have criticized him for a lack of political experience and describe him as a pawn controlled by Ivanishvili from behind the scenes.

Under Georgian law, President Giorgi Margvelashvili now has seven days to name a candidate for the prime minister's post. The nominee then must be approved by parliament.

Georgian media speculated that Foreign Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili was a frontrunner to replace Garibashvili.

Garibashvili's resignation may be aimed at boosting the popularity of the Georgian Dream party, whose ratings have been flagging, according to at least one poll by the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute.

Under Saakashvili, Georgia had embraced staunchly Western-leaning policies as the government sought membership in the European Union and NATO. But the policies angered Moscow, and paved the way to a brief war in 2008 that all but dismembered the country.

Ivanishvili, by contrast, has sought to mend fences with Russia, which remains a major export market for Georgian goods.

With reporting by Reuters, Interfax, TASS, AFP, AP, and RFE/RL's Georgian Service
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