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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Georgian Prime Minister Dismissed

TBILISI, Georgia -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili dismissed Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli and his government Friday and nominated an influential banker to the premiership in a move seen as a populist gesture to win votes ahead of a hastily called presidential election.

"We are putting forward new tasks that must be implemented by new people," Saakashvili said in televised remarks.

The announcement came shortly after Georgia lifted a state of emergency that had been imposed Nov. 7 after police violently broke up a large opposition protest gathering.

Saakashvili came under strong Western criticism for imposing the order after police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protest in the center of the capital. The emergency measures included a ban on holding demonstrations and a ban on independent newscasts.

The Georgian parliament voted Thursday to lift the restrictions, saying the country was no longer in danger.

Saakashvili nominated Vladimir Gurgenidze as the new prime minister and charged him with solving social and economic problems. Gurgenidze, 37, is chairman of the board at the commercial Bank of Georgia.

Nogaideli, 44, will go on to head the National Bank.

The parliament, dominated by Saakashvili's supporters, was expected to approve Gurgenidze's nomination easily. Once approved, the new prime minister would then present his nominations for other Cabinet members.

Nogaideli's government came under fire from many Georgians for failing to end widespread poverty and tackle soaring inflation. He is also unpopular for an education reform that saw many schoolteachers laid off and for overseeing a series of privatizations that his critics say were nontransparent.

The Western-educated and youthful Gurgenidze, by contrast, is seen as a successful, energetic businessman, under whose leadership the Bank of Georgia became one of the country's three biggest banks. He has spent a long time working abroad, has not been involved in politics and may be seen as a more detached figure not associated with the current government's problems.

"[Saakashvili] wants the names and ratings of the new popular leaders to help him in his presidential campaign," said Georgian political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze.

The protests against Saakashvili were sparked by allegations of corruption and involvement in a murder plot made by his former top aide turned opposition leader. That plunged Georgia into its most serious political crisis since the 2003 Rose Revolution -- the peaceful protests that powered Saakashvili into office.