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Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili admits election loss

President Mikheil Saakashvili has admitted his party has lost Georgia’s parliamentary election, in a live TV announcement, the BBC informs. He said the Georgian Dream bloc of his main rival, billionaire tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, had won Monday’s election. Victory for Mr Ivanishvili means the first democratic transfer of power in Georgia’s post-Soviet history. Mr Saakashvili, who has led the country since 2003, will remain in power until presidential elections next year. However, under agreed reforms the parliament and prime minister will acquire greater powers than the president after that election. Early results showed Georgian Dream ahead in the party list vote, which accounts for 77 of the 150 seats. President Saakashvili said it was clear that Georgian Dream had won a majority. Earlier Mr Ivanishvili, Georgia’s richest man, had already declared victory. He made his fortune in Russia in the early 1990s. Mr Saakashvili, a pro-Western leader who champions the free market, has warned that the Georgian Dream bloc will move Georgia away from the West and back into Moscow’s sphere of influence. Russia defeated Georgian forces in a brief war in 2008. In his TV address Mr Saakashvili said “it’s clear from the preliminary results that the opposition has the lead and it should form the government – and I as president should help them with this”. His United National Movement would become “an opposition force” and would “fight for the future of our country”, he said, acknowledging big differences between it and Georgian Dream. The ugly election campaign had polarised the country and there were fears that the results would be disputed, our correspondent says. Observers from the European security organisation OSCE said on Twitter that “despite a very polarising campaign the Georgian people have freely expressed their will”. Georgia’s Central Electoral Commission (CEC) said there had been no grave violations during the voting. More than half of the country’s population has no proper job. Older and poorer Georgians, in particular, are struggling and some feel nostalgic about the Soviet Union. The OSCE said the election process had “shown a healthy respect for fundamental freedoms… and we expect the final count will reflect the choice of the voters”. However, the statement regretted “detentions and fines of mostly opposition-affiliated campaigners” during the campaign.

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