International observers have hailed Georgia's parliamentary election as free and fair and complimented the country's leaders for conducting a democratic vote. President Mikheil Saakashvili has officially conceded defeat.
International monitors said on Tuesday that despite some instances of intimidation in Georgia's parliamentary election, voters had freely expressed their will.
"I think that the Georgian vote showed maturity," said Tonino Picula of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe at a Tbilisi press conference. "The parliamentary elections in Georgia are an extremely important step towards the goal of holding democratic elections."
Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili conceded defeat after parliamentary elections, saying in a televised speech midday Tuesday that his party would go into the opposition.
"It's clear from the preliminary results that the opposition has the lead and it should form the government. And I as president should help them with this," he said.
Opposition leader and billionaire businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili said on Tuesday he was confident of becoming prime minister of the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
"It looks like there will be a completely different parliament," Ivanishvili said in an early morning broadcast on the opposition's Channel 9 television channel, which he owns.
Partial results published by the Electoral Commission put the opposition party Georgian Dream at over 54 percent, and President Mikheil Saakashvili's United National Movement at 40 percent.
Georgia's electoral system allocates 77 of the 150 parliament seats according to party lists and the other 73 according to constituent victories.
Ivanishvili's supporters were celebrating as early as Monday night on the streets of the capital Tbilisi, despite rival victory claims by the United National Movement.
Casting his ballot on Monday, President Saakashvili had declared that the election would "decide the fate of Georgia."
During the campaign, the president, who came to power in the peaceful "Rose Revolution" of 2003, sought to portray his party as a guarantor of strong relations with the West, while claiming that a victory for the opposition would move the country closer to Moscow.
His opponent, Bidzina Ivanishvili, has made a fortune mainly by doing business in Russia and has rejected ruling party accusations claiming he is a Russian stooge. He laid out plans he would pursue as prime minister, saying a balanced budget would be a priority.
rg, hc/jr (dpa, Reuters)