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Saakashvili Confident of Decisive Victory in Georgian Presidential Election - 2004-01-04

Minutes after the polls closed, the favorite in the presidential election in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, said he was confident he had won. The outcome was never really in doubt, as voters flocked to the polls just six weeks after the ouster of Eduard Shevardnadze from the presidency.

Thirty-six year-old Mikhail Saakashvili told supporters at a rally that he was certain of a decisive win in the election. He hailed it as a triumph for the Georgian people, and pledged to rebuild the country.

Mr. Saakashvili was the overwhelming favorite to win the presidency, largely due to his leading role in the street protests that forced Mr. Shevardnadze to resign during what became known as the Rose Revolution in November.

The five other candidates were all political unknowns who never mounted major campaigns against the man most Georgians know by his nickname of Misha.

Mr. Saakashvili says his priority will be to tackle rampant corruption and widespread poverty in Georgia. The U.S.-educated lawyer also said last week he hopes to travel soon to Moscow in an attempt to improve relations with Russia that have long been strained.