In a widely expected result, preliminary data shows that
44-year-old Giorgi Margvelashvili, a former education minister under Georgia’s ruling Georgian Dream coalition, appears to have won election in Georgia’s October 27 presidential vote.
With 99.68 percent of the ballots counted, preliminary results from the Georgian Central Election Commission gave Margvelashvili 62.12 percent of the vote, followed by 21.72 percent for Davit Bakradze, a former parliamentary speaker for outgoing President Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement. Nino Burjanadze, a onetime Saakashvili ally and former parliamentary speaker, trailed in third place with 10.18 percent of the vote.
None of the other 20 candidates received more than five percent of the vote; the closest was populist Labor Party leader Shalva Natelashvili, a recurring presidential candidate, who stood at 2.88 percent.
Turnout earlier had been placed at 46.6 percent of the registered 3.54 million voters -- a considerable dip from the 2012 parliamentary elections which brought the Georgian Dream to power. Updated information was not immediately available on the CEC’s website.
Most voters, however, appeared to be following to the letter billionaire Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili's earlier warning that he would consider as an insult a return of less than 60 percent for Margvelashvili.
Out of 87 election districts, only 30 showed less than 60-percent support for the Georgian-Dream candidate. Out of that number, eight were hovering on the edge of 60 percent as of morning on October 28.
Margvelashvili, at Ivanishvili's urging, had pledged not to run in a second round if he received less than 60 percent of the vote. The comments had been accompanied by predictions from Ivanishvili that such an outcome would mean the return to the presidency of the UNM. Under a new constitution which now goes into effect, however, the office of president has considerably reduced powers, with most responsibility for running the government falling to the post of prime minister.
In comments late on October 27, the UNM's Bakradze appeared to take the likelihood of defeat largely in stride, telling viewers that, as an opposition leader, he intended to work with Margvelashvili "so that our country moves forward and our people live better."-This story was updated at 11:00am ET on October 28, 2013.
Sign up for Eurasianet's free weekly newsletter.