Saakashvili’s Party Concedes Defeat, Georgia Set for Transition

Posted October 2nd, 2012 at 12:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Georgia is heading into a political transition after voters used parliamentary elections to knock the ruling party of President Mikheil Saakashvili from power.

One day after claiming victory at the polls, President Saakashvili conceded defeat Tuesday to the Georgian Dream coalition led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Mr. Saakashvili pledged in a televised statement to help the opposition with the process of forming a new government. He will remain Georgia's president until his term expires next year, when many of the president's powers will be transferred to a yet-to-be chosen prime minister.

Ivanishvili has said he wants to be selected prime minister. He promised reporters Tuesday “there will be no political repressions just because some people were in the government and shared political views different from us.” But he also said anyone who committed a crime would be prosecuted.

International election monitors expressed concern over harsh campaign rhetoric and isolated incidents of violence, but praised the election overall as fair.

Ivanishvili has said he will seek close cooperation with both Russia and Western powers. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. ambassador to Georgia Richard Norlund have each congratulated Ivanishvili for his win. The opposition leader has said he will not change Georgia's course toward joining the European Union and NATO.

President Saakashvili had said a victory for Georgian Dream and Ivanishvili as prime minister would move Georgia away from the West and put it back under Moscow's influence.

His backers accuse the president of being a dictator. They blame him for the brief but disastrous 2008 war with Russia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Mr. Saakashvili's campaign also was hurt last week when videos surfaced of prison guards beating and raping inmates.