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October 02, 2012

Georgia President Concedes Election Defeat

by VOA News

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has conceded defeat for his ruling party in Monday's parliamentary election, handing victory to an opposition coalition led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Saakashvili pledged in a televised statement to help the opposition with the process of forming a new government.

Election commission officials on Tuesday said Ivanishvili's Georgia Dream was leading the ruling party's United National Movement by 54-to-41 percent.

Both parties declared victory Monday night, while thousands of opposition supporters celebrated in the capital Tbilisi.

Under the new Georgian constitution, the prime minister will assume many of the powers now held by the president when Saakashvili's second and last term ends next year. Parliament will choose the new prime minister.

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President Saakashvili had said a victory for Georgian Dream and Ivanishvili as prime minister would move Georgia away from the West and put it back under Moscow's influence. Ivanishvili denies this.

His backers accuse the president of being a dictator. They blame him for the brief but disastrous 2008 war with Russia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Saakashvili's campaign also was hurt last week when videos surfaced of prison guards beating and raping inmates.