New Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia
New Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia speaks at the Parliament in Tbilisi as he faces a confidence vote, on September 8, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

Tbilisi: Georgia's parliament on Sunday confirmed controversial interior minister Giorgi Gakharia as prime minister, fuelling a tense political situation in the Black Sea nation.

House Speaker Archil Talakvadze said 98 lawmakers had voted to approve the new government.

The opposition boycotted the vote.

Gakharia, 44, is a deeply controversial figure in Georgia.

He lived in Russia for many years and is perceived by many as a pro-Kremlin figure.

Many also hold him responsible for violently breaking up protests in the capital Tbilisi this past summer.

In June and July, thousands of protesters demanded Gakharia's departure after riot police used rubber bullets and tear gas against a largely peaceful anti-Russian protest.

The rallies evolved into a broader movement against the leader of the ruling Georgian Dream party, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Many Georgians are angry at the party over its failure to kickstart a stagnant economy and the pro-Western country's perceived democratic backsliding.

Ivanishvili, who is widely believed to be running the country of 3.7 million people, nominated Gakharia for prime minister after premier Mamuka Bakhtadze quit Monday after just over a year in office.

On Sunday, the legislature also approved Gakharia's choice of cabinet.

Former prime minister Irakli Garibashvili was appointed defence minister and the head of Georgia's state security service, while Vakhtang Gomelauri became interior minister.

All other cabinet members retained their posts.

President Salome Zurabishvili will have to sign off on the bill confirming the new prime minister and his choice of ministers.