TBILISI: Georgy Margve-lashvili, an ally of billionaire Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, won a landslide victory in a presidential election in Georgia yesterday, exit polls showed.
The little-known former deputy premier’s triumph cements the Georgian Dream coalition’s grip on power following Mikheil Saakashvili’s 10-year rule, although it is unlikely to end political uncertainty in the former Soviet republic.
His victory will put Georgian Dream in charge of both the presidency and the government for the first time, a year after it ousted Saakashvili’s cabinet at the polls. GfK, a leading European market research group, put Margvelashvili on 66.7 percent of votes cast yesterday. ACT, a Georgian public opinion research group, gave him 68 percent.
Both exit polls put his nearest rival, former parliamentary speaker and Saakashvili ally David Bakradze, on around 20 percent. Margvelashvili had required only one vote over 50 percent to secure victory outright and avert a run-off. “It seems that the picture is clear, and the final results will not be much different from the exit polls,” Bakradze said in televised comments.
Accepting defeat, he said: “I congratulate Georgy Margvelashvili on his victory. As the leader of the opposition, I will be ready to work with the new president.”
A 44-year-old academic brought into government last year as education minister, and then promoted to deputy premier, Margvelashvili owes his rapid rise entirely to Ivanishvili.