TBILISI, October 28 (RIA Novosti) – An opponent of outgoing Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has won the South Caucasus nation’s presidential election, electoral authorities said Monday.
With 100 percent of votes counted, Giorgi Margvelashvili from the anti-Saakashvili Georgian Dream party received 62.11 percent of the vote.
Margvelashvili is a close ally of Georgian Prime Minister and billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, who led Georgian Dream to a crushing victory over Saakashvili’s United National Movement in parliamentary polls last year.
The presidential runner-up is Davit Bakradze of Saakashvili’s United National Movement, with 21.73 percent of the vote.
Both of the top candidates pledged to continue policies of integration with the European Union and NATO, as well as improve ties with Russia that greatly soured under Saakashvili.
“There will be no aggression on our part. Georgia will be constructive toward Russia,” Margvelashvili said. However, he added that his country would not recognize breakaway provinces Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent nations.
The dispute over the two regions has been a sticking point in relations between Moscow and Tbilisi ever since the provinces proclaimed independence from Georgia in the early 1990s.
Tensions in the area eventually led to a brief war between Georgia and Russia in August 2008. In the wake of the war, Moscow recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states and pledged full assistance to both republics.
Twenty-three candidates took part in Sunday’s election, but the presidential position is less powerful than it was under Saakashvili after laws passed earlier this year diluted presidential powers.
Nino Burjanadze, a former parliament speaker and a leader of the 2003 Rose Revolution that brought Saakashvili to power, garnered 10.18 percent of the vote. The remaining 20 candidates failed to gain more than three percent of the vote.
Turnout among the country’s 3.5 million registered voters was 46.6 percent, according to the country’s election commission.
Georgia’s Central Election Commission chief Tamar Zhvania praised the elections as “yet another success by the people of Georgia.”
“It is very important that everything was peaceful, with no serious violations or incidents,” she said.
The European Union congratulated Margvelashvili on being elected.
Georgian Prime Minister Ivanishvili told journalists in Tbilisi on Monday that the name of his successor as premier would be known on Saturday. He said earlier that he would resign after the presidential election.
(Revises headline; updates throughout)