Calls for President Mikheil Saakashvili to step down after shock poll result in Georgia

Saakashvili concedes defeat in parliamentary election, but says he intends to stay on


The leader of Georgia's opposition coalition yesterday called on the President, Mikheil Saakashvili, to resign and call snap presidential polls.

After securing a shock victory in Sunday's parliamentary vote, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili said the honourable thing would be for the president to leave office. Mr Saakashvili has been president since the 2003 "rose revolution" and has a year left to rule, but would have to do so with a parliament controlled by his foes. "The only right thing for him to do now is to resign," said Mr Ivanishvili. "This would be good for himself and his future."

Earlier, Mr Saakashvili conceded that his United National Movement had been defeat by Mr Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition, paving the way for the first ever transfer of power through the ballot box in the history of Georgia, a key Nato ally.

It appears, however, that Mr Saakashvili intends to see out his term, leaving the prospect of a political conflict between president and parliament for the next year. While the full results are still not known, Georgian Dream won well over 50 per cent of the popular vote and is set to take over half the parliamentary seats. Representatives of the 1,600 international election monitors in the country announced yesterday that, though there had been some irregularities and biased media coverage, the vote was largely free and fair.

In a press conference in which at times Mr Ivanishvili appeared to be making up policy on the spot, the victorious leader said that no ministers in the current government could keep their jobs, and added that while there would be no witch-hunt, some current officials who had committed criminal acts would be put on trial.

Responding to a question over whether the organised crime bosses neutered by Mr Saakashvili would be allowed to return to the country, he snapped angrily at the reporter that she was a Saakashvili plant.

Mr Ivanishvili, who made his money in Russia and had been accused during the campaign of being a Kremlin stooge, also said yesterday he would not change Georgia's West-looking orientation and would continue to seek further integration with Nato and the EU. He added, however, that he wanted to see better relations with Russia and boost trade and cultural links, which were largely severed in the aftermath of the 2008 war between the two countries.

He said Mr Saakashvili had behaved "like a toreador waving a red flag at a bull" in his policy towards Russia. Mr Saakashvili's aides had confidently predicted victory right until the eve of Sunday's vote, but the government underestimated discontent in the country over concerns about rule of law and democratic reforms.

In a campaign that was largely based on vitriolic criticism of the other side, both camps portrayed the other as dangerous and dictatorial, but in the end, fatigue with nine years of Mr Saakashvili's rule proved decisive.

"You know well that the views of this coalition were and still are fundamentally unacceptable for me," said Mr Saakashvili. "We believe that their views are extremely wrong, but democracy works in a way that Georgian people make decisions by majority."

What happens next?

* Bidzina Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition has won a majority in parliament, which is sufficient to appoint a new Prime Minister. Until now, parliament was dominated by President Mikheil Saakashvili's United National Movement party.

* Presidential elections are due late next year. Mr Saakashvili, having completed two terms, cannot stand.

* Currently, the President has more powers than the Prime Minister, but constitutional changes after the next presidential election will rebalance these powers in favour of parliament and the Prime Minister.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'