TBILISI (AFP) - Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Wednesday nominated his rival Bidzina Ivanishvili as prime minister after the tycoon’s coalition defeated the president’s ruling party in polls this month. “The leader of the coalition which won the October 1 parliamentary elections, Bidzina Ivanishvili, has been selected for the post of prime minister,” Saakashvili’s spokeswoman Manana Manjgaladze told a news conference. As prime minister, billionaire Ivanishvili is set to gain wide-ranging new powers when the presidency’s role is reduced under constitutional changes that will come into force after Saakashvili’s two-term rule ends in 2013, when Georgia will become a mainly parliamentary republic.

Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream coalition said that Saakashvili’s decision came as no surprise. “It is absolutely logical that the president has nominated Bidzina Ivanishvili as candidate for the post of prime minister,” Georgian Dream spokeswoman Maia Panjikidze told AFP. “Candidates for ministerial posts are already selected, the new parliament will be convened on Sunday and the new cabinet will be approved within the coming days,” she said. The unexpected victory of Ivanishvili’s coalition ended the nine-year dominance of Saakashvili’s United National Movement party in the ex-Soviet state.

The billionaire tycoon’s bloc could hold 85 seats in the 150-seat parliament with Saakashvili’s party taking the remaining 65, according to the latest provisional figures from the central election commission.