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By BosNewsLife News Center with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
TBILISI/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvili has conceded defeat for his party in Monday’s parliamentary vote.
Appearing visibly upset on national television, Saakhasvili acknowledged his first major political setback since he became the country’s head of state after the 2004 ‘Rose Revolution’ protests against rigged elections.
Speaking on national television he said the ruling United National Movement lost its majority in the 150-seat parliament. “It is evident that the [opposition] Georgian Dream coalition has secured a majority,” he confirmed.
“There are deep differences between us, and we think their views are completely wrong. But democracy works through the majority of Georgians making a decision, and we respect this greatly,” Saakhashvili added.
It marks the first time in Georgia’s post-Soviet history that a government will be changed not through a revolution but via the ballot box.
The outcome means a major victory for the Georgian Dream coalition leader Billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made his fortune in Russia and only entered politics last year.
His opponents claim he will forge closer ties with Moscow for the first time since Georgia’s independence in 1991, though Ivanishvili maintains he also wants to continue Georgia’s slow progress towards membership of the European Union and the NATO military alliance.
Despite reports of some irregularities, international observers backed the ballot.
However, Tonino Picula of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe urged the rival political forces to work together for the democratic future of this Caucasus nation of 4.5 million people.
“Yesterday’s elections marked an important step in consolidating the conduct of democratic elections, although certain key issues need to be addressed,” Picula said.
That view is shared by Georgia’s Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II who warned that “those who the people want elected should be elected”. He spoke amid reports of wrongdoing.
The Interior Ministry has pledged to investigate reports that the nine-month-old niece of an opposition supporter as kidnapped and later found drowned after the activist was allegedly threatened by members of Saakashvili’s party.
Additionally armed men reportedly forced their way into two polling stations west of the capital Tbilisi, though officials played down the incident.
(BosNewsLife’s NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key general news developments impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals especially from, but not limited to, (former) Communist and autocratic nations.)