Georgian prime minister Garibashvili resigns

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TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Georgia's prime minister announced his resignation Wednesday without explaining his reasons.

Irakli Garibashvili is an ally of billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, whose Georgian Dream party routed supporters of former President Mikhail Saakashvili in a 2012 election. He has served as prime minister of the former Soviet nation since November 2013.

Garibashvili didn't immediately specify the reason behind his resignation as he made the announcement, but offered some self-praise, saying that "we have returned freedom and dignity to our citizens."

Georgian media had speculated that Garibashvili would step down to focus all his energy on the campaign for Georgian Dream in parliamentary elections next November. The party's popularity has steadily fallen as voters have been disappointed by the nation's worsening economic situation.

In contrast, support for Saakashvili's United National Movement has risen and some recent polls indicated that it has caught up with Georgian Dream or even overtaken it in popularity.

Giga Bokeria, one of the leaders of the United National Movement, said that Garibashvili's resignation has little significance as Ivanishvili has been effectively ruling from behind the scenes.

"It is a dreadful picture that the country is governed by unaccountable billionaire oligarch Mr. Ivanishvili and this prime minister was his puppet," he said. "So this will change nothing unfortunately."

Some other reports have alleged that Garibashvili could be aiming to become mayor of the capital Tbilisi.

Under Georgian law, President Giorgi Margvelashvili now has seven days to name a candidate for the prime minister's post, who then must be approved by parliament. The Georgian Dream has a majority in parliament, so the approval of a new prime minister is expected to be smooth.

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