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article imageGeorgia's President, opposition both claim victory

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By Layne Weiss     Oct 1, 2012 in World
Tbilisi - Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and a party led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili both claimed victory Monday in a parliamentary election.
The Georgian Dream Coalition led by Ivanishvili had been President Saakashvili's most serious challenge since he took power nearly 9 years ago, The AP reports.
According to The New York Times, exit polls show that Ivanishvili's party has edged out pro-Western president Mikheil Saakashvili.
Georgian television aired a poll by Edison Research, which showed that Georgian Dream Coalition had likely won more than half the popular vote.
The Associated Press reports that the polls were completed four hours before voting ended and recorded the vote based solely on party lists.
After the polls closed, President Saakshavili conceded that his party had indeed lost the popular vote, but insisted he was still way ahead in the direct elections, and that his party would retain its majority in parliament.
Thousands of supporters for Saakshavili's opposition the Georgian Dream Coalition celebrated in the streets of Georgia's capital, Tbilisi,Reuters reports.
"I expect that we will get no less than 100 seats in the new (150 seat) parliament," the coalition's leader Bidzina Ivanishvili told a crowd of his supporters. "I have achieved what I have long been striving for."
This doesn't mean, however, that the current president's days of power are over.
The official result is still in unclear, The New York Times reports.
President Saakshavili has reminded the voters that all the results were not in yet, Reuters reports. US Ambassador Richard Norland also urged Georgians to "stay calm" until all votes were counted.
Under Saakashvili's leadership, the former Soviet Republic became an ally of the United States, and has strived to join the European Union and NATO, The AP reports. Saakshavili has charged that Ivanishili is pro-Kremlin, and has every intention of putting Georgia back under Russian domination, but Ivanishvili has denied these allegations.
Saakashvili's image was severely undermined recently with the release of video footage of torture and sodomy of prison inmates, Reuters reports.
"I'm voting against violence and abuse. How can I do otherwise after what we have all see on TV?" Natella Zhorzholiani, 68, said while voting in Tbilisi.
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