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Election - 27 October 2013

Exit polls from Georgia's presidential election 27 October 2013 indicated an ally of current Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili was likely to win a first round victory. The polls indicate that Giorgi Margvelashvili, from Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition, might receive 67 percent of the vote. Exit poll results give just 20 percent to his closest rival, former speaker of parliament David Bakradze, of outgoing President Mikheil Saakashvili's United National Movement party. The prime minister said he will step down next month and nominate a new prime minister, who under Georgia's new parliamentary system will assume most of the powers previously held by the president. Saakashvili had been Georgia's president for 10 years. The constitution barred him from running for a third term.

On 02 November 2013 prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili proposed his close ally, Interior Minister Irakly Garibashvili, to succeed him when he steps down in the next few weeks. The billionaire had said he would quit as premier after Georgy Margvelashvili was sworn in as president on 17 November 2013. The prime minister's position is now the most powerful in the former Soviet republic under constitutional changes which transferred many of the president's responsibilities.

Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili resigned 23 December 2015, 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 that he was leaving to show an "example to the young generation... All posts are temporary. Only God and the motherland are eternal." His opponents have criticized him for a lack of political experience and described him as a pawn controlled by billionaire tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili from behind the scenes.

On December 25, 2015 Zviad "Giorgi" Kvachantiradze, head of the Georgian parliament's majority Georgian Dream (GD) faction, announced at a meeting of faction members on December 25 that agreement was reached during talks the previous day on nominating current Foreign Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili as the country's new prime minister.

Kvirikashvili, 48, was named foreign minister on 01 September 2015 despite his lack of any relevant experience. He holds degrees in medicine and economics and has spent most of his career in finance and banking. Insofar as GD's failure to deliver on its pre-election promises to speed up economic growth and reduce unemployment is one of the main factors behind its loss of popular support over the past year, the choice of a competent economist to head the government is logical. Whether Kvirikashvili can deliver the hoped-for economic upswing in time to reverse that trend in the run-up to the parliamentary elections due in October 2016 remained to be seen.

In line with the Georgian constitution, President Giorgi Margvelashvili must ask the parliament to approve Kvirikashvili's candidacy, for which a minimum of 75 votes is necessary. The various parties aligned in the GD coalition control 87 seats.

Those opposition politicians, primarily but not exclusively from the former ruling United National Movement (ENM), who long regarded Garibashvili as little more than a puppet in Ivanishvili's hands, are likely to construe the choice of a former close Ivanishvili associate for prime minister as corroborating that conviction.

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Page last modified: 31-10-2016 18:55:23 ZULU