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Saakashvili Supporters Celebrate Victory in Georgia

Tbilisi, 5 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Supporters of Mikheil Saakashvili have been celebrating his apparent massive victory in Georgia's early presidential election.

Preliminary official results of the Sunday election are not expected until later today, but widely reported exit polls have showed Saakashvili taking 85 percent or more of the vote.

Central Election Commission head Zurab Chiaberashvili was quoted as saying it was fully expected that Saakashvili would be officially declared winner.

Saakashvili, who led the peaceful protest campaign that toppled President Eduard Shevardnadze in November, declared victory after the polls closed and vowed to fight against corruption and lead Georgia to peace and prosperity.

He also said he would push for closer ties with Western Europe and the United States, and would seek close and friendly relations with Russia.

There were reports of some minor violations during the voting, but some 500 international observers reported no major irregularities.