Saakashvili elected Georgia's President

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Moscow, Jan 7 (UNI) Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has been re-elected President of the former Soviet republic of Georgia after a snap poll, preliminary official results suggested in media reports.

With about 70 per cent of ballots cast in the January 5 presidential elections counted, Saakashvili maintains lead with 51.7 per cent of the votes, Interfax news agency reported quoting the Georgian Central Election Commission.

United opposition candidate Levan Gachechiladze is second with 25.3 per cent. Badri Patarkatsishvili comes third with 6.5 per cent.

The opposition has already alleged the vote was rigged and mounted protests in the capital, Tbilisi.

But monitors from the OSCE and Council of Europe said the vote was democratic and the outcome should be respected.

Commenting on the election results, Russia said presidential election in Georgia had been marked by ''numerous offences against election legislation on the part of the authorities.'' ''Reports of numerous offences of election legislation on the part of the authorities have been and are still coming in from mass media, NGOs and members of the opposition,'' Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

''This has not come as a surprise keeping in mind the nature of the entire election campaign, which can hardly be called free and just,'' it said.

''It began under what was effectively a state of emergency.

The presidential race was marked by a wide use of administrative resources, open pressure on opposition candidates and tight restrictions on their access to financial and media resources,'' the Ministry said.

In this situation, it is quite understandable that supporters of opposition candidates are indignant at the fact that the ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili has in effect declared himself the winner without waiting for at least preliminary official results of voting to be announced,'' it added.

''As for assessments by Western observers as voiced by American Congressman A Hastings about 'triumph for Georgian democracy,' these appear superficial, to put it mildly,'' it noted.

However, a CIS team of observers recorded ''no obvious offences'' during Georgian poll that ''would have prevented citizens from freely stating their will.'' ''The early election for Georgian President on January 5, 2008, was on the whole organised in conformity with national election legislation. Our observers recorded no obvious offences that would have prevented citizens from freely stating their will,'' Nauryz Aidarov, head of the eight-nation mission and deputy chairman of the CIS executive Committee, told Interfax.

Meanwhile, Russia's Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) said that its leader, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, had sent Mr Saakashvili a telegram congratulating him on ''a brilliant victory'' in Georgia's presidential election but that Mr Saakashvili's victory meant triumph for ''an authoritarian regime.'' ''An authoritarian regime has become established in Georgia for many years to come,'' it said.

UNI XC PD DB2002

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