Giorgi Margvelashvili, ally of Georgian PM Bidzina Ivanishvili, wins election
A loyalist of Georgia's billionaire Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili basked yesterday in his presidential election victory to replace pro-Western moderniser Mikheil Saakashvili after a decade in charge of the ex-Soviet nation.
Giorgi Margvelashvili, a once obscure academic from Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition, won around 62 per cent of the vote in Sunday's poll, the election commission said after ballots from 99.68 per cent of polling stations had been counted.
His nearest challenger, ex-parliament speaker David Bakradze from Saakashvili's United National Movement (UNM), trailed behind with just under 22 per cent, official results showed.
Margvelashvili had claimed victory before cheering supporters at a rally in the capital Tbilisi on Sunday. "I thank you all so much. It is our shared victory," he said.
Savouring the win, Georgia's richest man Ivanishvili - who wrested power from Saakashvili's party in parliamentary polls last year in the country's first smooth transfer of power - said he had been certain of victory.
"All together we will build a Georgia which we dream about," Ivanishvili said.
Sunday's vote marked the end of US ally Saakashvili's second and last five-year term and his bitter year-long cohabitation with his bete noire Ivanishvili, who has promised to also step down.
In a televised address, Saakashvili urged his supporters to respect the outcome of the poll, while calling it a "serious deviation" from Georgia's path towards development.
Margvelashvili will assume a weaker role than Saakashvili as constitutional changes will see the prime minister take over key powers from the president and become the dominant force.