Georgian prime minister Giorgi Gakharia announced his resignation on Thursday, criticizing a court decision to order the detention of an opposition leader Nika Melia, chairman of Georgia's main political opposition, the United National Movement (UNM) which he said could lead to a "political escalation" in the country.
The move deepens a political crisis in the country following parliamentary elections in October that were marred by fraud allegations.
"Unfortunately I was unable to reach a consensus with my team on this issue, so I have decided to resign," Gakharia said, adding that he hopes the move will "reduce" political polarization in Georgia.
Gakharia said disagreement within his own government would "pose a risk to the health and lives of our citizens and increase political polarization in the country."
Following Gakharia's announcement, Georgia's Interior Ministry said it would postpone carrying out the arrest order for Melia.
At UNM headquarters in Tbilisi, Melia called for early elections on "behalf of all opposition parties." "Let's sit at the negotiating table with representatives of this government," he told supporters, who were celebrating Gakharia's resignation.
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.
Melia had been ordered into pre-trial detention Wednesday evening. A Tbilisi court refused bail for the 41-year-old who is accused of organizing "mass violence" during anti-government protests in June 2019.
"The case against me is judicial nonsense. Paying bail twice is nonsense. It is part of ongoing repression against the opposition," he told AFP news agency Wednesday.
Melia had refused to pay an increased bail fee, arguing he had already posted bail in 2019. He said the charges were "trumped-up" to target political opposition. He also has been accused by the opposition of having close ties with Russia and was dubbed "Moscow's man" by his political opponents.
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.