( AP ) - President Mikhail Saakashvili dismissed the prime minister Friday and nominated an influential banker for the post in an apparent attempt 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.
Saakashvili nominated Vladimir Gurgenidze to replace Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli. The president charged Gurgenidze with solving social and economic problems in the small ex-Soviet Caucasus nation. Gurgenidze, 37, is chairman of the board at the commercial Bank of Georgia.
The announcement came shortly after Georgia lifted a state of emergency imposed Nov. 7 after police violently broke up a large opposition protest.
Saakashvili came under strong Western criticism for the order, which police enforced using tear gas and rubber bullets when protests erupted in the capital. The emergency measure included a ban on holding demonstrations and a ban on independent newscasts.Parliament voted Thursday to lift the restrictions, saying the country was no longer in danger.
Parliament, dominated by Saakashvili's supporters, was expected to easily approve Gurgenidze's nomination. Once approved, the new prime minister will present his nominations for other Cabinet members.
The leadership change was seen as a populist gesture to win votes.
"He (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 Western-educated and youthful Gurgenidze is seen as a successful, energetic businessman, who helped make Bank of Georgia one of the country's top three lenders. He has spent a long time working abroad and is new to the political scene so he is likely to be seen as a fresh face detached from the current government's problems.
By contrast, Nogaideli's government came under fire from many Georgians for failing to adequately address poverty and tackle soaring inflation. Nogaideli is also unpopular for an education reform that resulted in mass teacher lay-offs and for overseeing a series of privatizations that his critics say were non-transparent.
The U.S.-educated Saakashvili has won praise among many Georgians for his efforts to integrate this small Caucasus nation with the West. But he has faced growing discontent over the slow pace of reforms, persistent poverty and what critics call increasingly authoritarian policies.