Georgian parliament elects ruling party candidate as new speaker

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TBILISI (Reuters) – The Georgian parliament on Tuesday elected a ruling Georgia Dream Party candidate as its new speaker following the resignation of his predecessor after violent protests outside the building.

Archil Talakvadze was elected unanimously as opposition lawmakers left the session in protest after the ruling party refused to discuss the position of the interior minister, who they hold responsible for police using excessive force to break up the demonstration.

Protests broke out in front of the parliament building last week after Russian lawmaker Sergei Gavrilov addressed lawmakers from the speaker’s chair in Russian.

That unleashed simmering resentment among many Georgians, who feel angry and humiliated they have to maintain friendly ties with Moscow even though Russia briefly invaded their country in 2008 and still backs two breakaway regions of Georgia.

Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to prevent crowds of protesters from storming the parliament. Hundreds of people were injured, some seriously, including loosing eyes.

The protests have quickly developed into a double crisis pitting Moscow against Tbilisi and pitting the protesters in Georgia against their own government, which has for years tried to smooth over differences with Moscow.

Russia suspended flights to Georgia and said it was tightening controls on Georgian wine imports.

Protesters said they would continue rallying until the interior minister resigned.

(Reporting by Margarita Antidze; editing by Angus MacSwan)

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