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Georgian President Concedes, Says His Party Will Become Opposition

Saakashvili Concedes Georgian Votei
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October 02, 2012
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili concedes defeat and announces his party now becomes the opposition. (Reuters)
WATCH: President Mikheil Saakashvili concedes Georgian vote.

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Photogallery Bidzina Ivanishvili, Georgia's Wild Card

Meet Bidzina Ivanishvili, the billionaire newcomer whose Georgian Dream coalition is presenting Mikheil Saakashvili and his ruling party with the first serious competition in their nearly decade-long hold on power.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has conceded that his ruling United National Movement (ENM) party has lost the October 1 parliamentary elections and is going into opposition.

"After summing up the preliminary results, it is clear that the Georgian Dream coalition has the lead," Saakashvili said in a televised address. "This means that the parliamentary majority should form the new government, and as president, according to the constitution, I will help this process and help parliament begin its work, elect its speaker, and form the new government."

With nearly one-quarter of ballots counted, Georgia's Central Election Commission said on October 2 that Georgian Dream, led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, was leading both in the vote for party lists and in direct voting districts.

Saakashvili said he believed Ivanishvili's views were "fundamentally unacceptable" but that he would respect the voters' choice.

"There are deep differences between us," he said. "We believe that [the coalition's] views are extremely erroneous. But democracy works so that decisions are made by a majority of the Georgian people. And we, of course, respect that strongly."

The Central Election Commission said that with some 25 percent of ballots counted, the Georgian Dream coalition had 53 percent of the vote for party lists.

Seventy-seven of the 150 deputies in parliament are elected based on party lists; the remaining 73 lawmakers are directly elected in their constituencies.

The election commission said that with ballots from about two-thirds of direct voting districts counted, Georgian Dream was also leading in the vote.

In its assessment of the vote, observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said Georgia had taken an "important step in consolidating conduct of democratic elections, but some key issues remain."

The OSCE said that, despite "a very polarized campaign," Georgians "have freely expressed their will at the ballot box.”

Saakashvili came to power in the bloodless Rose Revolution of 2003 and his presidential mandate ends in 2013. He has steered Georgia away from Russia and toward the West.

Litmus Test

Saakashvili had said Ivanishvili would move Georgia away from the West and bring it back into Moscow's orbit. 

Ivanishvili denied this. The billionaire said he would pursue Georgia's strategic goals of joining NATO and the European Union, as well as normalizing relations with Russia. 

Those ties were damaged in 2008 when the two countries fought a brief war over two Georgian breakaway regions.   

PHOTO GALLERY: Jubilant Georgian opposition supporters
  • Georgian Dream opposition coalition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili speaks to his supporters in Tbilisi late on October 1.

Ivanishvili said on October 1 that he was confident the election result would change the country's government.

"The Georgian people have shown their great culture, their great wisdom, and everything happened exactly as these people and this country needed," he said. "I think an interesting precedent happened in Georgian history today: For the first time in our long history, we have changed our government through elections."

A constitutional reform that goes into effect next year would give parliament and the prime minister greater powers at the expense of the presidency.

Ivanishvili has said he wants to obtain Georgian citizenship -- of which he was stripped last year -- and become prime minister.

The opposition complained of harassment in the lead-up to the vote.

Amnesty International condemned human rights abuses during election campaigning.

“While the Georgian Dream coalition has by and large been able to get its message across to Georgian voters, many of its supporters have been fined, fired, harassed, or detained for expressing their political views,” said Natalia Nozadze, Amnesty International’s expert on Georgia.

The run-up to the October 1 vote had been colored by mass protests against police brutality and torture in Georgia's prison system.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, Interfax, dpa, and AFP
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Comment Sorting
by: Andrew from: Auckland
October 02, 2012 11:49
Potentially an historic moment for Georgia, a peaceful transition of power is hopefully about to occur.
Of course, one wonders how "Jack" will try and spin this, or Eugenio for that matter.
In Response

by: Rasto from: front of my comp
October 03, 2012 10:40
I would say it is too early to say that. Taking into account very suspicious death of small todller from a family of GD campaigns manager in Kakheti, shambolic cancellation of clearly winning GD candidate Gelashvili (with whom mr. Saakashvili has unresolved issues) in Kchasuri by special forces of interior ministry with assiatnce of tear gas and rubber bullets and last but not least dozens of beaten GD sympatizants I would refrain from calling that transition peaceful.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
October 03, 2012 06:18
For some reason it seems to me that had this happened in some other country, the RFE/RL would have preferred to talk about a "humiliating defeat" :-))). Congratulations, Beuavuses: one more of your stooges got kicked out of power - after Ukraine and Serbia, Georgia seems to be taking its distance from the bankrupt nation of burned alive losers. The next stop is Romania - president Basescu, you can start packing up your suitcase as well :-))).
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
October 03, 2012 08:56
I say now is the time for Father Russia-thats prez.Putanin of course to annex Georgia in retaliation of everything Koba did.EU Genio should be made a commissar of the new protectorate and Jack and Vakhtang should be a viceroy and deputy viceroy respectively.And Mother Russia should also adopt her orhaned prodigy-Con-stant-teen,giving him the post of provincial governor and providing him with the necessary pills!!!
In Response

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
October 03, 2012 15:34
Saakashvili has lost everything because of immoral elements who organized torture and abuse in prisons.Thugs unfortunately exist in any society, and can be of any nationality.
Even worse, there are types like camel, who can destabilize any society.Therefore, besides the reforms, necessary to constantly monitor the situation that such types as camel not have done bad deeds..Saakashvili unfortunately overlooked immoral elements (like camal) and paid for it...

by: Jack from: US
October 03, 2012 13:22
not to focus on individualities the rump "republic of Georgia" is a backward pitiful third-world country whose government for the last decade was bankrolled by US government at US taxpayer's expense. The average GDP per capita in rump republic of Georgia is less than in Angola. The rump republic has so far seen a endless succession of crazed dictators propped up by Washington. What are the chances the next one will be sane? The best outcome for people of the rump republic is to split it into 3-4 more parts so at least one petty Washington-supported dictator could not screw up the lives of all of the miserables even more

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