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The Week in Brief

Friday, January 11
Voters handed Mikheil Saakashvili a second term in a snap presidential election, according to the Central Election Commission. The latest results, with nearly all precincts counted, show Saakashvili at about 52 percent of the vote, just above the 50 percent he needed to avoid a runoff.

The OSCE election observation mission deemed the election democratic “in essence,” but found numerous violations and challenges to be “addressed urgently.” Irregularities included repeat voting, ballot stuffing, and dismal counting procedures, but most observers concluded the election was valid overall.

The country’s political opposition, whose combined candidates took around 40 percent of the vote—and much more in the capital—roundly condemned the election as rigged. The nine-party opposition coalition behind Levan Gachechiladze, who won a quarter of the vote nationwide, is calling a mass protest for January 13. Acting president Nino Burjanadze pardoned two former officials of the Eduard Shevardnadze government imprisoned after the Rose Revolution. Sulkhan Molashvili, once the chief of the state audit agency, and Davit Mirtskhulava, a former energy minister, claimed to be political prisoners. Russian Ambassador to Georgia Vyacheslav Kovalenko said Moscow wants to see better relations with Georgia but expects “real steps” from Tbilisi to make it happen. Saakashvili has invited Vladimir Putin to his inauguration, but it is not clear whether that is the step Russia is looking for.