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Georgian Lawmakers Approve Kvirikashvili as New PM

  • VOA News

Georgy Kvirikashvili delivers a speech to members of parliamentary groups and committees in Kutaisi, Georgia, Dec. 28, 2015.

Georgia's parliament has confirmed the country's former top diplomat, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, as prime minister, less than a week after the abrupt resignation of his predecessor after only two years in office.

By a vote of 86-28, lawmakers in the former Soviet republic approved Kvirikashvili late Tuesday and confirmed his Cabinet choices. That vote is expected to be ratified by President Giorgi Margvelashvili later this week.

Ahead of the vote, Kvirikashvili – a 48-year-old technocrat with little political experience – pledged to move forward with the ruling Georgian Dream coalition's push for closer ties with the West. He also promised to advance efforts to improve relations with neighboring Russia that were torn apart by a brief war in August 2008.

"Full European integration with an eventual goal of EU membership, as well as NATO membership, is our top priority," Kvirikashvili told parliament Monday, according to Reuters news agency.

"Our pragmatic approach toward Russia aims first and foremost to lessen risks to prevent threats to our main foreign policy course," he added.

Last Wednesday, Irakli Garibashvili resigned as prime minister without explaining his sudden departure.

Analysts and opposition politicians quickly linked that move to the coalition’s efforts to boost its popularity in the face of a struggling economy. Elections are scheduled next October for the Caucasus country of 3.7 million.

Recent surveys show the coalition's approval rating falling to 18 percent, a steep fall from one poll’s finding of 42 percent in August 2014.

The Georgian Dream coalition – an amalgam of small parties – wrested power from pro-Western Mikheil Saakashvili's UNM party in the 2012 parliamentary elections.

Kvirikashvili, appointed foreign minister in September, has a background in banking and finance. He’d served as director general of Cartu Bank from 2006 to 2011, Reuters said. He’d earned a master’s degree in finance from the University of Illinois in the United States.

Some information in this report from Reuters.