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Georgian Interior Minister, Focus Of Protester Ire, Nominated For PM

Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia
Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia

TBILISI -- Georgia's ruling party, Georgian Dream, has nominated controversial Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia as its candidate for prime minister.

Billionaire businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili, the party's chairman, submitted the proposal on September 3 at the end of a one-hour session of the political council.

In protest against Gakharia's nomination, opposition lawmakers disrupted parliament's session chanting "shame" as hundreds of anti-government demonstrators rallied outside the building.

Opposition deputy Salome Samadashvili described Gakharia as "Moscow's man in Georgia" and said that his nomination was "dragging Georgia deeper into a political crisis," according to the AFP news agency.

Gakharia's nomination comes a day after Mamuka Bakhtadze announced his resignation as prime minister after little more than a year in the position, saying he had fulfilled the mandate he was given.

Gakharia immediately announced changes in the cabinet, saying he would appoint the head of Georgia's state security service, Vakhtang Gomelauri, as interior minister, and former Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili as defense minister.

Parliament, where Georgian Dream holds a majority, will start debate on the proposed government on September 4, and a vote of confidence is expected on September 8, according to House Speaker Archil Talakvadze.

This summer, angry protesters have rallied in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi for weeks calling for Gakharia's ouster from the Interior Ministry after police fired rubber bullets and water cannons on an angry crowd that was trying to storm parliament. More than 240 people were injured, with several people losing an eye.

The anti-government protests were sparked on June 20 by a Russian State Duma deputy who sat in the Georgian parliamentary speaker's chair while addressing lawmakers from predominantly Orthodox Christian countries.

Before his appointment as deputy prime minister and interior minister in November 2017, Gakharia, 44, held the post of economy minister.

He has also worked in Russia as a regional director of the German aviation company Lufthansa and as a visiting lecturer in biotechnology with the Moscow State University.

He is a graduate at Lomonosov Moscow State University.

Many Georgians openly voice hostility toward Russia, 11 years after the two countries fought a war that resulted in the occupation by Russian military forces of two breakaway Georgian regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

With reporting by AFP