Saakashvili concedes defeat, says his party now opposition

Georgian President and leader of the United National Movement ruling party Mikhail Saakashvili has officially conceded the defeat in the parliamentary election on national TV. The UNM now goes into opposition to the winning Georgian Dream coalition.

The Georgian Dream coalition that has won the election will be forming the next Georgian government and it is expected that the coalition’s current leader billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili might be elected Georgia’s next prime minister. According to the laws adopted in the country recently, the prime minister will have more powers than the ruling president, making for an interesting power dynamic.

Central Elections Committee data

Over 97 per cent of the votes counted

Georgian Dream coalition – 55 per cent

United National Movement (UNM) – 40.27 per cent

Estimated turnout – 61 per cent

Talking of the election results, the tycoon praised his coalition saying it “worked so well” that “it left Saakashvili no choice but to admit his defeat.”

It is really the first time we have managed to transfer political power in Georgia by means of democratic – almost democratic – elections,” said the informal opposition leader referring to the civil war that followed Georgia breaking away from the USSR and the Rose Revolution, which brought Mikhail Saakashvili to office in 2003.

The Georgian Dream coming to power will not alter the country’s course to join NATO and the EU, Ivanishvili said as the party was celebrating victory. But it will take some effort to convince Moscow this is no threat for them, he asserted.

We will remain a regional player. Perhaps, for such a small country like Georgia it will be hard to have several strategic partners. But our correct steps and correct policies should make us acceptable both for our neighbors and the USA,” said Ivanishvili.

The opposition leader urged Saakashvili to resign and stage a snatch presidential poll. “This will save his face,” says the Georgian Dream coalition front man.

Saakashvili said he “remains” opposed to the coalition’s views, but is ready for talks and has a person to nominate for Prime Minister who would suit the Georgian Dream.

While counting the votes, the country’s Central Election Commission said its website had suffered a denial-of-service attack, leading to a delay in the release of the results. The twelve remaining parties seem to be scooping less than 5 per cent of vote, which means they cannot enter the 150-member parliament.

Georgia′s triumphant billionaire opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili speaks during a news conference at his campaign headquarters in Tbilisi, on October 2, 2012 (AFP Photo / Vano Shlamov)
Georgia's triumphant billionaire opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili speaks during a news conference at his campaign headquarters in Tbilisi, on October 2, 2012 (AFP Photo / Vano Shlamov)

Reaping what was sown

The election campaign in Georgia was marred by a flurry of accusations from both the ruling party and the opposition, with some experts labeling the campaign “the dirtiest ever in Georgia”.

On the eve of the elections the battle for electoral minds reached its zenith after national TV channels broadcast video evidence of torture and rape in a detention facility in the capital Tbilisi – with the connivance of, or even direct orders from, the ruling party.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in several Georgian cities over the abuses in a Tbilisi prison. The minister of execution of sentences resigned as a result of the atrocities.

The scandal may have further implivations for Saakashvili, points out Mark Almond, an Oxford historian and Visiting Professor of International Relations at Bilkent University in Turkey.

[Saakashvili and his closest associates] could have not only lost the election but they could face serious legal complications, if the opposition which is now coming to power chooses to follow up the torture and abuse scandal, which was in many ways was the basis for a huge swing towards them,” Almond told RT.

AFP Photo/Vano Smirnov
AFP Photo/Vano Smirnov

Polling day was not exempt from violations.

On Monday, Georgian media reported national security forces clashed with local residents in the town of Khashuri, a town close to the country’s capital Tbilisi. Three people were injured at a polling station when rubber bullets and teargas were fired by security forces, claimed opposition news station TV-9. Reportedly the cause for the incident was some kind of attempted illegal activities at the polling station.

An observer group Transparency International Georgia has claimed falsifications took place in Khashuri.

“Our observer present at precinct No. 46 reported that Georgian Dream had most of the ballots in a vote summary protocol, but shortly afterwards, armed persons arrived at the precinct, and kicked all the observers out of the building. A new summary protocol was made in which the United National Movement was the winner; the District Election Commission accepted this very protocol,” TI Georgia was quoted by Civil Georgia news website.

The Public Chamber of Russia and the Democratic Research Problem Fund, working in close co-operation with Georgian activists, have accused Georgia’s ruling United National Movement party of a number of gruesome violations during the elections on October 1. This included electorate bribery attempts, bringing already-completed ballots to the stations, as well as prosecution and intimidation of opposition activists.

However, the international observers from 15 nations have declared the elections conformed to international standards. The OSCE mission in Georgia has also acknowledged that the poll was free and democratic bringing viable results.

Opposition supporters celebrate what they call the victory of Georgian Dream opposition bloc in central Tbilisi, late on October 1, 2012. (AFP Photo/Vano Shlamov)
Opposition supporters celebrate what they call the victory of Georgian Dream opposition bloc in central Tbilisi, late on October 1, 2012. (AFP Photo/Vano Shlamov)