News / Europe

Georgia’s President Saakashvili Concedes Defeat

Georgians read newspapers on the street in Tbilisi, Georgia, October 2, 2012.
Georgians read newspapers on the street in Tbilisi, Georgia, October 2, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
— Georgia’s president Mikheil Saakashvili conceded defeat Tuesday in parliamentary elections.  After a year of polarizing campaign politics, he promised to work with the opposition bloc, the Georgian Dream.

Appearing on Georgian national television, President Saakashvili said: "It is clear that Georgian Dream has won a majority."  Conceding his party will be reduced to a minority opposition force in parliament, he vowed: "We will fight for everything that was created to modernize Georgia, to build new institutions and protect this all for future generations.”

With 73 percent of the vote counted, his United National Movement was winning 41 percent of the vote, but the opposition Georgian Dream coalition was winning 54 percent.

Georgia's Parliamentary Election

  • 16 political parties and blocks are contesting the election
  • All 150 parliamentary seats are being contested
  • More than 3.5 million Georgians are eligible to vote
  • More than 90 observer organizations are monitoring the vote
Saakashvili, an American trained lawyer and close ally of the West, took pride in fostering democratic reform during his eight years as president.  But in recent years, his rule had turned increasingly authoritarian.  Several voters told VOA they decided to vote against him after watching videos on television of Tbilisi prison guards abusing and sodomizing prisoners.

The beneficiary of the videos was Bidzina Ivanishvili, Georgia’s richest man and founder of the Georgian Dream. Ivanishvili also appeared Tuesday on national television.  In addition to claiming victory, he asked President Saakashvili to resign.

That is unlikely.  The president has up to one year to set the date for presidential elections.  Once a new president is elected, the constitution mandates many presidential powers shift to the new prime minister. Ivanishvili is expected to take that post.  It is unclear how an Ivanishvili-dominated parliament will coexist with a Saakashvili presidency during the next year.

  • Supporters of an opposition Georgian Dream coalition celebrate exit poll results in Tbilisi, Georgia, October 1, 2012.
  • Georgian billionaire and opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili, left, celebrates with supporters at his office in Tbilisi Georgia, October 1, 2012.
  • Opposition supporters reacts on the central square during a rally in Tbilisi, Georgia, October 1, 2012.
  • Georgians vote during Parliamentary elections at a polling station in Tbilisi, October 1, 2012. Voters in Georgia are choosing a new parliament in a heated election that will decide the future of Saakashvili's government.
  • Lines at a polling station in Tbilisi, Georgia, October 1, 2012.
  • An elderly woman casts her ballot at her home in the village of Sartichala in Georgia's Kakhety region, October 1, 2012.
  • Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, his wife Sandra Roelofs, and his son Nikoloz at a ballot box before voting in Tblisi, October 1, 2012.
  • Leader of the opposition Georgian Dream coalition, Bidzina Ivanishvili, addresses the media in Tbilisi October 1, 2012.
  • Bidzina Ivanishvili and his wife Ekaterine Khvedelidze pray in a church in Tbilisi, October 1, 2012.
  • Supporters of the opposition Georgian Dream Coalition attend an election rally in Tbilisi September 29, 2012.

Minutes after the Georgian president conceded defeat, European observers held a pre-scheduled press conference.  Luca Volonte, who leads the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, urged the opposition to work with Saakashvili.  “For its part, the opposition must be constructive and responsible and should cooperate for the overall good of society,” said Volonte, an Italian.

Tonino Picula, the leader of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe delegation, said the campaigning period was tilted against the opposition, but the voting was largely fair.  “Yes, I believe that Georgia passed the democracy test,” said Picula, from Croatia. “We are talking today in a very peaceful landscape.  And this is the first general election after the war.”

Assen Agov, a Bulgarian who headed a delegation of parliamentarians from NATO countries said Monday’s democratic election and the promised peaceful transfer of power will boost Georgia’s candidacy to join NATO.  Ivanishvili, the opposition leader, repeatedly promised to uphold Georgia’s existing policy of trying to join NATO and European Union.

But the Georgian Dream leader made his fortune, estimated at $6.4 billion, in Russia.  President Saakashvili who lost a war with Russia four years ago, has accused Ivanishvili of being a Russian agent.  Ivanishvili has responded by saying that he wants to normalize relations with Georgia’s northern neighbor, something that he says would be impossible with Saakashvili in power.

James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

36 people are confirmed dead, but some 270 remain trapped on board More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid