PM's Ally Wins Georgia Presidential Poll
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - An ally of billionaire Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili is basking in an overwhelming win in presidential polls in the ex-Soviet state to replace Mikheil Saakashvili after a decade in power.
Giorgi Margvelashvili, a politically inexperienced academic from Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition, was cantering to victory with about 62 per cent of the vote at the election on Sunday after ballots from more than 70 per cent of polling stations had been tallied, the election commission said.
His nearest challenger, ex-parliament speaker David Bakradze from Saakashvili's United National Movement party, trailed far behind on just under 22 per cent, official results showed, AAP reported.
Margvelashvili had already hailed victory before cheering supporters at a rally in the capital Tbilisi on Sunday after exit polls indicated he was cruising to a win.
"I thank you all so much. It is our shared victory," Margvelashvili said as balloons were released to chants from the crowd.
Savouring the win, Georgia's richest man, Ivanishvili, said at the rally that his coalition would aim to work with its opponents.
"All together we will build a Georgia which we dream about," Ivanishvili said. "I congratulate you all."
Fireworks exploded over the capital after polls closed in the Caucasus republic of about 4.5 million, as convoys of Margvelashvili supporters beeped car horns and waved flags.
Runner-up Bakradze was quick to admit he had lost.
"I congratulate Giorgi Margvelashvili on his electoral win and the trust expressed in him by the Georgian people," Bakradze said in televised comments.
He said the vote confirmed Saakashvili's UNM party as the main opposition in the country, with partial results giving combative ex-parliament chairwoman Nino Burjanadze just over 10 per cent in third place.
Sunday's vote calls time on US ally Saakashvili's decade in power and his bitter year-long cohabitation with bete noire Ivanishvili, who has promised to also step down in the coming weeks.
In a televised address, Saakashvili urged his supporters to respect the outcome of the poll even though he called it a "serious deviation" from Georgia's path towards development.