Tuesday, October 2, 2012

New parliamentary majority in Georgia advises president to resign

Bidzina Ivanishvili, the leader of the Georgian Dream coalition, speaks during a news conference in Tbilisi on October 2, 2012.

Source: Press TV

The leader of the party that won Monday’s parliamentary election in Georgia has called on President Mikheil Saakashvili to step down.

On Tuesday, Saakashvili conceded defeat in the election to the opposition Georgian Dream coalition led by billionaire businessman and philanthropist Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is set to become the next prime minister.

At his first news conference after winning the Monday vote, Ivanishvili, 56, called on the pro-Western president to quit. “The only right decision now for Saakashvili would be to resign.”

With results in from 72 percent of polling stations, the opposition was leading Saakashvili's United National Movement by 54 to 41 percent. This accounts for 77 of the 150 seats for the Georgian Dream. The rest of the seats are made up of 73 constituencies elected by a first-past-the-post voting system, which means that to become an MP, all a candidate has to do is to get more votes than any rival in that constituency.

Saakashvili, 44, will remain as the president of Georgia until his second and last term ends in October 2013. Under the 2010 constitutional amendments, which will go into effect after Saakashvili leaves office, many of the president's powers will be transferred to the prime minister.

Ivanishvili said there will be no repression once he comes into power. He promised to cooperate with Saakashvili's party but made clear that former officials who’ve committed crimes will face justice.

On foreign policy, he said normalizing ties with Russia will be a priority for his government. Relations between Moscow and Tbilisi soured after a five-day war between the two countries back in 2008.

In Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev welcomed the Georgian Dream victory as opening the way for “more constructive and responsible forces” to enter the Georgian parliament.

He added Moscow was "ready for dialogue about the future of Russian-Georgian relations."

The Monday vote was Georgia’s seventh legislative election since the country gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

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