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Author`s name Michael Simpson

Georgia Election Over, Is Political Crisis Over Too?

People believe Mikhail Saakashvili may change life for the better
The epopee of the presidential election in Georgia is finally over. Even though the name of a prospective president was known beforehand and no election trouble could be expected, the triumph of Mikhail Saakashvili is really impressive. Final results of the presidential election are just to come, but it is already clear that the "clever and strong man" (this is the characteristic given to Mikhail Saakashvili by ex-president Eduard Shevardnadze) won not less than 96 per cent of votes. Final results of the election will probably just slightly differ from the provisional showing.

As well as during the parliamentary election in Georgia in November that ended in Shevardnadze's resignation, this time counting of votes gives rise to doubts. On January 5, chairman of the Georgian Central Election Commission Zurab Chiaberashvili made such haste to announce Mikhail Saakashvili's triumph that he made a slight inaccuracy. When Zurab Chiaberashvili announced the first results of counting of votes he said Saakashvili won 96.7 per cent, his closest rival Teimuraz Shashiashvili - 2.47 per cent, other candidates won less than 1 per cent and 1.43 per cent of the electorate voted against all candidates. Journalists immediately estimated that following the report of the Election Commission over 100 per cent of the electorate had taken part in the election, which is highly unlikely.

It is not ruled out that 96 per cent of the electorate have preferred the candidature of Mikhail Saakashvili as people believe he may change life for the better. Some time ago, Zviad Gamsakhurdia was a sure winner of the presidential election and Eduard Shevardnadze won not less than 70 per cent of votes. But Eduard Shevardnadze was later blamed for alleged falsification of the election results.

Foreign monitors will hardly bring similar charges against Shevardnadze's successor, Mikhail Saakashvili. Leaders of European countries and the US have already congratulated the newly elected president with the triumph. The OSCE head welcomes the "peaceful and normal" election in Georgia. This unanimity is extremely surprising, as election results of this sort traditionally give rise to much doubt. Ilkham Aliyev, the newly elected president of Azerbaijan was given even more criticism for the course of the presidential election in the republic even though Washington voiced its support to the candidate right before the election.

As for Azerbaijan and Georgia, basic candidates to presidency in both republics had no alternative at all. At the time when foreign monitors could have some claims to the basic candidate for presidency in Azerbaijan (it is believed that Ilkham Aliyev got the power by the right of succession), all the formalities have been observed during the election in Georgia. Monitors have presented no claims to the presidential election in Georgia although the campaign was conducted within a very short period of time.

The election is over and the political crisis in Georgia is coming to its end. But one should not be that categorical about the end of the political crisis. It is not clear yet if Georgia will manage to rise from the abyss where it found itself under the previous presidents and governments. Indeed, the new political elite performed rather significant roles in the previous epochs.

Georgia's Laborites are going to appeal against the results of the presidential election conducted on January 4 at the European Court, the leader of the party declared at a press conference on January 6. He thinks the election has been illegitimate as it was fixed by the parliament of the 1999 convocation which was no longer valid. The Laborites leader says he does not recognize Mikhail Saakashvili the president of the republic, as the latter came to power through "anti-constitutional and anti-national means".

Mikhail Saakashvili is the protйgй of ex-president Eduard Shevardnadze, which means there has been no revolution in the republic, the Laborite leader adds. He also doubts that the newly elected president has won 95 per cent of votes. It is said that Georgia does not have even an approximate register of voters. The currently existing list is based upon preliminary registration of voters which does not reflect the actual number of the electorate.

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