Saakashvili officially wins Georgian presidential election

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Moscow, Jan 9 (UNI) Former President Mikheil Saakashvili won the presidential election in Georgia, chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC) Levan Tarkhnishvili announced today.

Mr Tarkhnishvili said Mr Saakashvili received a total of 52.2 per cent of votes in the January 5 election. His main rival Levan Gachechiladze came second with 25.3 per cent, Russian news agencies reported from Tbilisi, the Georgian capital.

The final results are expected to be published on January 13, he said.

Russia has sharply criticised the election, saying it was marred by several offences.

However, the US and EU have welcomed the election results.

The Georgian presidential election complied with the basic international democratic standards, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza said in agencies' reports.

Georgia's opposition has stepped up its challenge to the results, accusing the authorities of vote rigging.

Mr Gachechiladze, Georgia's united opposition candidate, announced he will go on a hunger strike today, RIA Novosti news agency reported, quoting his election team.

The opposition announced yesterday it would hold a large-scale rally in central Tbilisi to demand a second round of elections on Sunday.

Mr Gachechiladze's key ally Mr Salome Zurabishvili said if there was no second round by Sunday, ''the whole of Georgia will be out on the streets.'' Mr Saakashvili, a US-educated lawyer, came to power in ''Rose Revolution'' in 2003 after mass protest rallies in the capital.

He called the snap election in an attempt to prove his democratic credentials after huge opposition protests were suppressed last November.

His attempts to bring Georgia closer to the US, NATO and EU have unprecedentedly worsened bilateral relations with Russia.

UNI XC SKB RK1831

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