Georgian Parliament Approves Bakhtadze As Prime Minister

Georgia's parliament has approved acting Finance Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze as the country's new prime minister.

Lawmakers on June 20 voted 99-6 in favor of Bakhtadze and also approved an interim cabinet that he intends to reshuffle within three weeks as part of plans to usher in liberal reforms in the South Caucasus country.

The 36-year-old former business executive told lawmakers before the vote that Georgia will press forward on efforts to gain membership in the European Union and NATO.

"We will be consistent on the path of full integration into the European Union," Bakhtadze said.

He added that NATO membership was "a crucial task of Georgia's foreign policy and is vital for the country's security and stable development."

Georgia has attempted to build ties with the West, a move that has angered Moscow, with which Tbilisi lost a brief but bloody war in 2008 over breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Bakhtadze, who once served as the CEO of the Georgian Railways state enterprise and the director-general of the Georgian International Energy Corp, has promised "fundamental and innovative reforms, to create a new economic model that will affect every Georgian citizen."

The ruling Georgian Dream party on June 14 named Bakhtadze, 36, as its candidate to replace Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, who quit earlier in the month following a series of antigovernment protests in the capital.

Under the constitution, the ruling party had to submit a new cabinet list to President Giorgi Margvelashvili by June 20. Margvelashvili then had a further seven days to submit the new cabinet to parliament for approval.

After Bakhtadze chooses his new cabinet, the parliament will vote again.

The parliamentary opposition did not participate in the voting, calling it a "sham."

Announcing his resignation, Kvirikashvili on June 13 cited "disagreements" with Bidzina Ivanishvili -- the tycoon who founded Georgian Dream and returned to the party's top post in April after years without a formal political role -- as a reason for his decision.

Kvirikashvili had been prime minister since December 2015. His decision triggered the resignation of the whole cabinet in which Bakhtadze was serving as acting finance minister.

Ivanishvili led Georgian Dream to victory over then-President Mikheil Saakashvili's long-dominant United National Movement in 2012 parliamentary elections.

Ivanishvili served as prime minister for a year after his party's victory before he announced he was leaving politics and ceded the post to an ally.

He is widely believed to have continued to wield a powerful influence on Georgian Dream from behind the scenes.

With reporting by AFP