The Kyiv Post welcomes feedback about our new website and we stand ready to fix any problems users might encounter in our test phase. Contact us at: or +38-044-591-3344. Thank you!

Share Tweet Pocket Add to Bookmarks
You're reading: Georgia’s president, opposition both claim victory

 TBILISI, Georgia — Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and the opposition both claimed victory Monday in a parliamentary election that is crucial to determining the future direction of this former Soviet republic.

The governing party was in
a heated race against an opposition coalition led by Bidzina
Ivanishvili, a billionaire businessman who has posed the most serious
challenge to the pro-Western president since he came to power almost
nine years ago.

No results have been released yet in Monday’s
vote. Two exit polls conducted by Edison Research and Gfk gave the edge
to the opposition, but they were done four hours before the voting
stations closed and registered only the vote based on party lists, which
is used to elect 77 of parliament’s 150 members.

The remaining 73
members are directly elected by majority vote in their constituencies,
where the president’s United National Movement is considered to have a
strong advantage.

Saakashvili, speaking on television shortly
after the polls closed, said the opposition coalition Georgian Dream had
indeed won the party vote, largely on the strength of its support in
the capital, Tbilisi. Still, he said his party was far ahead in the
direct elections and would retain its majority in parliament.

Dream, however, released a statement saying that its own exit polls
showed it would win the party vote by 63 percent and cited Ivanishvili
saying he was “prepared to ensure a parliamentary majority.”

The Central Election Commission said the first preliminary results were expected at 3 a.m. Tuesday (2300GMT, 7 p.m. EST Monday).

were running high, but both sides have promised to respect the results
if the election receives the approval of international observers.

The U.S. ambassador joined calls for a peaceful election.

encourage the public to remain calm, have faith and be patient while
all the results are counted and any challenges are properly evaluated,”
Ambassador Richard Norland said.

Under Saakashvili, the former
Soviet republic has aligned itself with the United States, while
striving to join the European Union and NATO.

Ivanishvili, who
made his money in Russia, has said he would pursue these strategic goals
while also seeking to restore the ties with Moscow that were severed
when the two neighboring countries fought a brief war in 2008.

has accused Ivanishvili of serving Kremlin interests and intending to
put Georgia back under Russian domination, which the opposition leader
has denied.

After casting his vote on Monday, Saakashvili said the
election was important not only for Georgia, a nation of 4.5 million on
the Black Sea, but for the region.

“A lot of things are being
decided right now in our country … for the future not only of this
nation, but for what happens to the European dream in this part of the
world, what happens to the idea of democracy in this part of the world,
what happens to the idea of reforms in this part of the world.” he said,
his Dutch wife and their young son standing behind him.

The opposition has accused Saakashvili of authoritarian rule.

a doubt, Saakashvili and all of his people should leave,” said Mamuka
Gigienishvili, a 55-year-old physicist who voted in Tbilisi. “We have
had enough of him acting like a czar.”

She said his party “labeled
anyone with a different opinion a traitor … as if only they were able
to lead the country in the right direction.”

campaign was hit hard by the release two weeks ago of shocking videos
showing prisoners in a Tbilisi jail being beaten and sodomized. The
government moved quickly to stem the anger, replacing Cabinet ministers
blamed for the abuse and arresting prison staff, but many saw the videos
as illustrating the excesses of his government.

Berishvili, a 49-year-old small business owner, pointed to all that
Saakashvili had done to reform Georgia since coming to power in early
2004. She specifically named the disbanding of the corrupt traffic
police and creation of a modern force, a widely praised program carried
out by Saakashvili’s longtime interior minister whom he named prime
minister in June.

“I think we should allow this team to fulfill
its promises: to improve the situation in agriculture, decide the
problem of joblessness, universal health insurance,” she said. “Look at
his baby, the police force. It is the best in the former Soviet Union.”

has taken a zero-tolerance approach to crime, which has eradicated
petty corruption and made the streets safe again. The flip side has been
a huge increase in the prison population and the power of the
prosecutors, who win convictions in more than 90 percent of cases.

also enacted reforms and attracted foreign investment that together
produced dramatic economic growth. Poverty and unemployment rates,
however, remain high.

Ivanishvili, the opposition leader, expressed confidence earlier Monday that his coalition would win.

the first time in Georgian history the Georgian people are managing to
conduct really democratic elections, or elections which are very close
to being democratic because the government has made many violations
already,” he said. “There were many violations before election day and I
think there will be violations today, too, but the wisdom of the
Georgian people and historic experience has helped us to make it
possible for the first time to change the government through elections.”

came to power after anger over a rigged parliamentary election in
November 2003 led to the Rose Revolution and the ouster of Eduard
Shevardnadze, who had taken power in 1992 after a military coup.

Saakashvili won a presidential election in January 2004 with 96 percent of the vote and reelection four years later.

His United National Movement has held 119 of the 150 seats in parliament.

election sets in motion a change in the political system that will
reduce the powers of the presidency. The party that wins the majority in
parliament will have the right to name the prime minister. When
Saakashvili’s second and last term ends next year, many of the
president’s powers will be transferred to the prime minister.

Saakashvili’s party wins on Monday, he has said he does not intend to
become prime minister after the presidential election in October 2013.
Such a job swap would bring unwelcome comparisons to Russian President
Vladimir Putin, who served for four years as prime minister to avoid a
constitutional ban on more than two consecutive terms as president.

is not running for a seat in parliament, but has said that if his
Georgian Dream coalition wins he would serve as prime minister at least
for a year or two to put his team in place.

Found a spelling error? Let us know – highlight it and press Ctrl + Enter.


Add comment

Sorry, you must be logged in to post a comment.
More in this section

Add a picture
Choose file
Add a quote

Are you sure you want to delete your comment?


Are you sure you want to delete all user's comments?


Are you sure you want to unapprove user's comment?


Are you sure you want to move to spam user's comment?


Are you sure you want to move to trash user's comment?

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: