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Georgia's parliament approves new prime minister

New PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili has told Georgian lawmakers that he plans to pursue pro-West policies, while reconciling with Russia. The parliament's approval will be passed to the president for formal ratification.

Georgia's parliament has officially approved ex-Foreign Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili as the nation's prime minister, days after 33-year-old Irakli Garibashvili suddenly resigned.

"The parliament has approved the new government by 86 votes to 28," parliamentary speaker David Usupashvili announced on Wednesday.

The parliament's decision will be handed to President Giorgi Margvelashvili for final ratification.

Kvirikashvili told Georgian lawmakers ahead of the vote that his cabinet's focus will be on "economic development and ensuring people's wellbeing."

"Full European integration with an eventual goal of EU membership, as well as NATO membership is our top priority," Kvirikashvili said. "Our pragmatic approach towards Russia aims first and foremost to lessen risks to prevent threats to our main foreign policy course."

The parliament also approved his choice of cabinet, which remained unchanged from the previous one under ex-Prime Minister Garibashvili, except for the appointment of a new foreign minister to replace himself.

Dwindling popularity

Opposition lawmakers and analysts blamed the swift appointment on the ruling Georgian Dream party's declining popularity, which reached only an 18-percent approval rating in December, down from 42 percent in August 2014.

"Georgian Dream…proved incapable of handling the economic crisis and failed to deliver on its own promises to introduce democratic reforms, [and] is trying to repair its damaged image" ahead of 2016's parliamentary elections, said political commentator Helen Khoshtaria.

The Caucasus nation of 3.7 million has struggled to cope with an economic slump, rising inflation and significant currency devaluation during the Georgian Dream coalition's three years in power.

The ex-Soviet nation has also been the subject of a geopolitical struggle between the West and Russia, which engaged Georgia in a brief war in 2008 over two regions - South Ossetia and Abkhazia - that declared independence from Tbilisi.

Watch video 05:25

South Ossetia: Life behind a fence | DW

ls/bk (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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