Giorgi Gakharia said he believes that the detention of the opposition leader could spark tensions and expressed hope that his resignation would help “reduce polarisation” in the country.
Georgia Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia announced his resignation on Thursday, following a court ruling that ordered the arrest of a man who leads the ex-Soviet nation’s top opposition party.
Mr. Gakharia said in a statement he was stepping down because of disagreements within his own team over the decision to arrest Nika Melia, chairman of the United National Movement opposition party.
Tbilisi court on Wednesday ruled to place Melia, who is accused of organising “mass violence” during anti-government protests in 2019, in pre-trial detention after he reused to pay an increased bail fee of $12,000. If convicted, Melia faces nine years in prison. He has rejected the charges as politically motivated.
The move deepens a political crisis in the country following parliamentary elections in October that were marred by fraud allegations.
UNM headquarters in Tbilisi, Melia called for early elections on “behalf of all opposition parties.”
Georgia’s opposition parties say that the parliamentary election in October was rigged, and have refused to recognize the results by boycotting parliament.
The boycott threatens the legitimacy of the ruling Georgian Dream party, which won the elections.
European Union envoy to Georgia said Melia’s case was setting a “dangerous trajectory for Georgia and for Georgian democracy.”
Gakharia has been accused by the opposition of having close ties with Russia, and was dubbed “Moscow’s man” by his political opponents.
Russia and ex-Soviet state Georgia have had tense relationssince a brief war in 2008 over two breakaway pro-Russia provinces.
As interior minister in 2019, Gakharia led the police crackdown on anti-Moscow protesters before he was appointed prime minister in September of that year.