Georgia Premier Resigns Citing Divisions With Billionaire Leader

(Bloomberg) -- Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili unexpectedly resigned his post, citing divisions with his governing party and its billionaire founder Bidzina Ivanishvili.

There’s “a clear difference between myself and the ruling” Georgian Dream party over economic reforms, Kvirikashvili, 50, said in a televised address announcing his resignation in the capital, Tbilisi, on Wednesday. “I also want to note that in the past few months there were clear differences on fundamental issues between myself” and Ivanishvili, he said, without further explanation.

The premier, who’s held office since December 2015, said his departure will “give an opportunity to the head of the party to create a new team.” A new government will be presented within seven days, the head of the Georgian Dream faction in parliament, Mamuka Mdinaradze, said in an interview on Rustavi 2 television.

Kvirikashvili defended his government’s economic record since winning 2016 parliamentary elections, even as he acknowledged that many Georgians suffered amid a slump triggered by Russia’s longest recession in two decades, the conflict in Black Sea neighbor Ukraine, and the weakening of the Turkish lira following the failed coup attempt. Russia and Turkey are the Caucasus nation’s top two trading partners.

Party Founder

Ivanishvili, Georgia’s richest man, took back the leadership of Georgian Dream last month ahead of presidential elections planned for October, saying the country faced challenges amid conflicts within the party.

He founded the party in 2011 and defeated outgoing President Mikheil Saakashvili’s ruling United National Movement in parliamentary elections a year later. Ivanishvili served as prime minister for 12 months before stepping down, saying he’d achieved his goal of reshaping Georgia’s political system after backing the winning candidate for the presidency.

Georgia’s emerged from the crisis with the strongest economic growth in the region, reaching 5.5 percent in the first quarter of 2018 compared to a year earlier, Kvirikashvili said in his address. Demands during the crisis to fix the lari’s value against the dollar would have caused greater hardship for people and Georgia was right to maintain a floating exchange rate, he said.

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