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Georgia's EC declares win for Saakashvili

Georgia's Election Commission announces that incumbent President Mikhail Saakashvili has won the weekend's presidential election.

world Updated: Jan 07, 2008 21:01 IST

Georgia's Election Commission announced on Monday afternoon that incumbent President Mikhail Saakashvili won the weekend's presidential election with 52.01 per cent of the votes as 79.4 per cent of the ballots had been counted.

Saakashvili, who called the snap elections after violent protests in November, just narrowly crossed the 50-per cent barrier needed to avoid a runoff vote. The opposition candidate Levan Ganchechiladze came second with 25.21 per cent, the ongoing official tally showed.

Georgia's election commission chairman Levan Tarknishvili said he expected to publish official results "in the next few hours," according to the Central Election Commission's website.

In early Monday morning Tarkhnishvili announced Saakshvili's victory based on unofficial telephone results with fewer than half the electoral precinct's ballots counted.

A 10,000-strong opposition rally in central Tbilisi on Sunday ended without incident, but supporters of the nine-party coalition opposing Saakashvili dispersed vowing not to concede defeat.

Meanwhile the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) praised the elections as a "triumph of democracy," and the European Union congratulated Georgia on holding peaceful elections.

The head of the OSCE watchdog mission, US congressman Alice Hastings, said the vote was "a valid expression of the Georgian people's will."

The Russian Foreign Ministry rejected the OSCE's approval, saying the comments seemed "superficial." The relationship between Russia and former Soviet republic Georgia has deteriorated during pro-Western Saakashvili's term.

The geo-strategically important country, lying at the crossroads of oil and gas routes and close to Iraq, has become the site of a battle over influence between Moscow and Washington.