Ex-Soviet republic Georgia’s parliament appoints new premier

Georgian Dream party Prime minister nominee Irakli Garibashvili speaks at the Georgian Parliament in Tbilisi, Georgia, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. The parliament in ex-Soviet nation Georgia has voted to appoint a new prime minister and Cabinet after Giorgi Gakharia resigned last week. The lawmakers voted 89:2 for Irakli Garibashvili and his cabinet. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — The parliament in ex-Soviet nation Georgia has voted Monday evening to appoint a new prime minister and Cabinet after Giorgi Gakharia resigned last week over a court ruling to arrest the top opposition politician.

The lawmakers voted 89-2 for Irakli Garibashvili and his Cabinet. Garibashvili, 38, served as the country’s prime minister between 2013 and 2015 and was the defense minister in Gakharia’s Cabinet. His candidacy was put forward by the ruling Georgian Dream party.

Gakharia resigned Thursday over the decision to arrest Nika Melia, chairman of the United National Movement opposition party. A Tbilisi court last week ruled to place Melia, who is accused of organizing “mass violence” during anti-government protests in 2019, in pre-trial detention.

Gakharia said arresting the opposition leader could lead to further escalation of political crisis and threaten the well-being of the country’s citizens. Following Gakharia’s resignation, Georgia’s Interior Ministry issued a statement saying it had temporarily postponed detaining Melia.

A political crisis unfolded in Georgia after a parliamentary election in October, the results of which gave the Georgian Dream party a victory with 48% of the votes. The biggest opposition alliance, led by the United National Movement, placed second with 27%.

The opposition has refused to recognize the results of the vote as valid and demanded a rerun. Thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets in protest for days after the election. Opposition parties are boycotting parliamentary sessions and demanding their mandates be invalidated.

In his address to parliament on Monday, Garibashvili ruled out the possibility of a rerun.

“We categorically reject any negotiations related to the early elections. This issue is closed. This issue is not considered. They (opposition) do not want early elections, fair elections, or democratic elections. They want a violent change of government, that is why they are out of the constitutional framework,” Garibashvili said.

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