Georgia elects ally of prime minister to succeed president
By Max Delany, Irakli Metreveli, AFPTBILISI--An ally of billionaire Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili on Monday basked in an overwhelming win at presidential polls in the ex-Soviet state to replace larger-than-life moderniser Mikheil Saakashvili after a decade in power.
October 29, 2013, 12:22 am TWN
Giorgi Margvelashvili, a politically inexperienced academic from Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition, was cantering to victory with some 62 percent of the vote at the election Sunday after ballots from over 70 percent of polling stations had been tallied, the election commission said.
His nearest challenger, ex-parliament speaker David Bakradze from Saakashvili's United National Movement party, trailed behind on just under 22 percent, official results showed.
Margvelashvili had already hailed victory before cheering supporters at a rally in the capital Tbilisi Sunday after exit polls indicated he was cruising the presidency.
“I thank you all so much. It is our shared victory,” Margvelashvili said as balloons were released to chants from the crowd.
Savouring the win, Georgia's richest man Ivanishvili said at the rally that his coalition would aim to work with its opponents.
“All together we will build a Georgia which we dream about,” Ivanishvili said. “I congratulate you all.”
Fireworks exploded over the capital after polls closed in the Caucasus republic of some 4.5 million, as convoys of Margvelashvili supporters beeped car horns and waved flags.
Runner-up Bakradze was quick to admit he had lost.
“I congratulate Giorgi Margvelashvili on his electoral win and the trust expressed in him by the Georgian people,” Bakradze said in televised comments.
He said the vote confirmed Saakashvili's UNM party as the main opposition in the country, with partial results giving combative ex-parliament chairwoman Nino Burjanadze just over 10 percent in third place.