Mikheil Saakashvili re-elected President of Georgia

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Mikheil Saakashvili narrowly won the presidential election with 52.8% of the vote.

Election officials have declared Mikheil Saakashvili the winner of the Georgian presidential election, which occurred earlier than usual due to anti-government protests in November 2007. He garnered 52.8% of the vote, while the leading opposition candidate Levan Gachechiladze came in second with 27% of the vote.

The election had been a controversial one, with opposition leaders claiming it was unfair and that Saakashvili had rigged the vote in his favor. Allegations of intimidation, media bias, and vote buying were widespread.

In a report, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) called the election "consistent with most O.S.C.E. and Council of Europe commitments and standards for democratic elections", but also noted violations, including people apparently voting more than once at certain polling stations and some ballot boxes not being properly sealed. Giorgi Kandelaki, a spokesman for the Justice Ministry, responded by saying there were "very few violations that could be regarded as serious".

Cquote1.svg I perceive this election as a viable expression of free choice of the Georgian people, but the future holds immense challenges. Cquote2.svg

—Alcee Hastings, U.S. Congressman and OSCE coordinator

After exit polls showed Saakashvili in the lead on Saturday, he declared an early victory, which prompted thousands of protesters to gather in Tbilisi. Gachechiladze spoke at the rally, saying, "We have won despite pressure, despite intimidation, despite televised terror exerted against us." He said that the opposition will contest the results in court and scheduled another rally on January 8, since Georgia celebrates Christmas on Monday.

Alcee Hastings, United States Congressman and coordinator of OSCE, called for the protesters to regard the election as legitimate and for the government to institute electoral reforms in time for upcoming parliamentary elections. "I perceive this election as a viable expression of free choice of the Georgian people, but the future holds immense challenges," Hastings said.

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