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Ivanishvili Says Call For Saakashvili's Early Exit Not An Ultimatum


Georgian opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili speaks during a news conference at his campaign headquarters in Tbilisi on October 2, when President Mikheil Saakashvili acknowledged an election defeat on behalf of his ruling party.

Georgian opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili speaks during a news conference at his campaign headquarters in Tbilisi on October 2, when President Mikheil Saakashvili acknowledged an election defeat on behalf of his ruling party.

Bidzina Ivanishvili, the billionaire whose opposition coalition won Georgia's parliamentary elections this week, says his quick call for President Mikheil Saakashvili to resign was not an "ultimatum."

Full preliminary election results are still due, but Saakashvili has conceded that his United National Movement lost the October 1 elections and that Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition had the right to form the next government.

Shortly after Saakashvili conceded defeat a day later, Ivanishvili called on the president to resign, accusing him of "establishing a climate of lies, violence, and torture."

Saakshvili's second and final presidential term ends in 2013.

Ivanishvili said on October 3 that "for the wellbeing of the nation" he was ready for dialogue.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen congratulated Georgia for holding "historic" elections but also encouraged it to pursue deeper democratic reforms.

Other international leaders also weighed in to credit Tbilisi for its handling of what could be the first vote-driven handover in Georgia's post-Soviet history.

It has come after a fraught political season riven by dirty campaign tactics and massive public anger over the Saakashvili government's role in a prisoner-abuse scandal.

Saakashvili, who came to power after the 2003 Rose Revolution, steered Georgia toward the West. He has accused Ivanishvili of planning to bring Georgia back under Moscow's influence.

Ivanishvili, who made much of his fortune in Russia, denies such suggestions. He says he supports his country joining NATO but will also normalize relations with Moscow.

On October 3, Ivanishvili said his first trip abroad would be to the United States, Georgia's "main partner and friend."

"We haven't received any congratulations from Russia, we have no communication," Ivanishvili said. "As for any visits, I have already said that my first visit will be to Washington because [the United States] is our main partner and main friend."

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on October 2 said the opposition victory in the election opened the way for "more constructive and responsible forces" to enter Georgia's parliament.

Based on reporting by civil.ge, Interfax, and dpa

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