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Georgian parliament appoints new PM, Defense Minister

by Rachel Amran and The Kyiv Independent news desk February 8, 2024 10:57 PM 3 min read
Georgian Dream party chair and incoming Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze at a press conference on March 31, 2021. (Vano Shlamov/AFP via Getty Images)
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Georgian parliament passed a vote of confidence to appoint Irakli Kobakhidze, the former chairman of the Georgian Dream party, as the country's new Prime Minister, replacing Irakli Garibashvili.

The decision comes as Georgia's ruling party prepares for national elections in the fall.

Kobakhidze was appointed with 84 votes in favor, with 76 needed for a majority, following an 11-hour parliamentary session, involving heated debates between members of the opposition and the ruling party.

Lawmakers reportedly argued over reforms needed to open EU accession talks, the Russian occupation of two Georgian regions, poverty, and population outflow.

The parliament also agreed to replace the country's current defense minister, Juansher Burchuladze, with former Deputy Speaker Irakli Chikovani.

In his address to members of parliament, Kobakhidze, 45, announced that economic growth, protecting the church, and increasing the nation's birth rates are major priorities for his time in office. He then thanked the efforts of the Georgian Dream party for avoiding war with Russia.

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The Georgian Dream party, Georgia's current ruling party, was created by Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili back in 2012. Over the years, Ivanishvili has faced accusations of corruption due to his alleged ties to Russia.

Earlier this year, Ivanishvili announced that he was returning to politics as the party's "honorary chair."

Kobakhidze reportedly aided Ivanishvili in establishing the Georgian Dream and became the party head in 2015. The Georgian official continued to rise in the party ranks over the next few years despite his increasingly polarizing reputation with the Georgian public.

Irakli Garibashvili, the country's former PM, will assume Kobakhidze's previous role as chairman of the Georgian Dream.

The ruling party has taken inconsistent positions on Russia and its full-scale war on Ukraine.

Garibashvili drew widespread criticism in May 2023 after he said that Ukraine was partially to blame for Russia's full-scale war.

Representatives from Georgian Dream did not vote for the Oct. 13 Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) resolution that declared Russia a dictatorship.

Georgia has also refrained from joining sanctions against Russia, often citing that doing so would harm its own economic interests.

Georgian Dream tried to enact a foreign agents law in 2023, characterized by some as a "kind of a copy-paste from Russia," but withdrew it from consideration after massive street protests broke out in response.

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