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Georgia Ruling Party Candidate Wins Decisive Presidential Victory

Presidential candidate Georgy Margvelashvili (R) celebrates his victory in Sunday's presidential election with his partner Maka Chichua at the Georgian Dream coalition's headquarters in Tbilisi, Oct. 27, 2013.
Georgia's ruling coalition has cemented its control of the country's government with an overwhelming presidential election victory.

With most of the vote counted Monday, Giorgi Margvelashvili had 62 percent of Sunday's vote with his closest challenger at just 22 percent.

Margvelashvili is a member of billionaire Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition, and soundly defeated the candidate running under outgoing President Mikhail Saakashvili's party.

The new president's coalition will retain control of parliament as the country shifts to a new system that transfers most of the powers previously held by the president to the prime minister. Ivanishvili has pledged to step down in the coming weeks and nominate a new candidate for his job.

Margvelashvili has said he will continue efforts made by Saakashvili to engage more closely with the West, including efforts to join NATO and the European Union. He also wants to improve relations with neighboring Russia, which were shattered by a brief 2008 war.

EU officials have expressed concerns about the possible arrest of Saakashvili once he leaves office. Several former Georgian officials, including the country's former prime minister, have been jailed since last year. In the latest case, a court sentenced ex-defense minister Bacho Akhalaia to prison on Monday.

Margvelashvili told the Associated Press that the outgoing president will likely be questioned.

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

The candidate from his party, former parliamentary speaker David Bakradze, conceded defeat and congratulated Margvelashvili as soon as exit polls were released.

Election observers praised Sunday's vote as clean, with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe saying Monday the election was "positive and transparent."