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Georgia PM Ally Wins Presidential Vote

The candidate backed by Georgia's billionaire Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili has easily won the presidential election.

Exit polls say Giorgi Margvelashvili, from Mr. Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition, is set to win about 67 percent of Sunday's vote.

With about 40 percent of precincts counted, election officials said Margvelashvili had 63 percent. In line with the exit polls, the candidate from outgoing President Giorgi Saakashvili's party, former parliamentary speaker David Bakradze, had 21 percent.

Bakradze conceded defeat and congratulated Margvelashvili as soon as the exit polls were released.

Earlier Sunday, Mr. Ivanishvili commended the Georgian people for the election conducted in a calm and open political environment in full compliance with international standards, which he said is "another important step in Georgia's continuing European integration."



The prime minister's coalition beat Mr. Saakashvili's party in parliamentary elections a year ago. The prime minister said he will step down next month and nominate a new prime minister, who under Georgia's new parliamentary system will assume most of the powers previously held by the president.

Mr. Saakashvili has been Georgia's president for 10 years. The constitution barred him from running for a third term. He came to power during the popular uprising that forced President Eduard Shevardnadze to step down in 2004.

The pro-Western Saakashvili's time in office has included economic reforms and efforts to fight corruption, but also a brief war against Russia and accusations of human rights abuses.

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