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Georgia's premier names successor ahead of departure

The billionaire prime minister of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili, has nominated the country’s interior minister as his successor. Ivanishvili is set to step down once the new president is sworn into office.

On Saturday, billionaire Prime Minister Ivanishvili named Interior Minister Irakly Garibashvili (pictured) as his successor, part of a broader shake up of power in the Caucasus nation.

"Our team unanimously supported Irakly Garibashvili's candidacy," Ivanishvili told reporters in the capital, Tbilisi. "Georgia will have a very worthy prime minister."

Last month, Georgi Margvelashvili defeated the pro-Western incumbent Mikheil Saakashvili in the presidential election. Once Margvelashvili is sworn in as president on November 17, Prime Minister Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition will have cemented its grip on power.

Once the new president takes office, Ivanishvili's government has to step down. The billionaire former businessman said his job is finished now that his bitter rival Saakashvili is no longer in power.

Interior Minister Garibashvili still has to be nominated by parliament and approved by the president before taking over as prime minister, but these steps are considered formalities. Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition already dominates the legislature and president-elect Margvelashvili is an ally.

"I want to thank Bidzina Ivanishvili for the trust he has shown in me," Garibashvili said, standing on a podium next to his mentor. "I promise that I will continue his path."

Constitutional changes have transferred many responsibilities from the president to the prime minister, making the latter the most powerful post in the country.

slk/mkg (AFP, Reuters)