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Georgian Prime Minister Garibashvili resigns months before elections

In a surprise move, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has tendered his resignation less than a year before parliamentary elections. The premier did not give the reason for his decision.

"I have made a decision today to resign from the post of prime minister. I am leaving this position today, but will remain a loyal soldier of my motherland," Garibashvili said in a televised speech on Wednesday.

"All posts are temporary. Only God and Motherland are eternal," he added.

It is unclear why Garibashvili chose to step down but the opposition parties say his resignation may be part of the ruling coalition's efforts to gain back popularity amid economic turmoil before parliamentary elections set to take place in October 2016.

According an opinion poll conducted by the US-based National Democratic Institute, Garibashvili's Georgian Dream party's approval ratings stood at just 18 percent last month.

An ally of billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili,

Garibashvili became prime minister in 2013

after the Georgian Dream party defeated supporters of former President Mikhail Saakashvili in a 2012 vote. Garibashvili, who is now 33, became the youngest head of government in Europe when he was appointed as prime minister.

Opponents criticize Garibashvili for a lack of political experience, claiming he is a pawn controlled by Ivanishvili.

President Giorgi Margvelashvili now has a week to nominate a prime minister, who then needs a vote of confidence from the country's parliament.

Media reports tip deputy prime minister and foreign minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili to replace Garibashvili.

shs/jm (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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