Tbilisi : Georgian former president Mikhail Saakashvili won the country’s presidential election Saturday, an exit poll showed.
The exit poll, which gave Saakashvili 53.8 percent of the vote, was based on statistics till 8:00 p.m. (1600 GMT), before the official end of the 12-hour voting.
Previous exit polls, based on statistics at 4:00 p.m. (1200 GMT), also showed him winning more than half of the vote.
Saakashvili, who swept to power in 2004, called the snap election following clashes between police and protestors last November and then resigned in order to run as a candidate.
“According to the exit polls and all the data we have won, although as a democratic party we should wait for the Central Election Commission’s final results,” Saakashvili said in a speech to his supporters.
He also called for reconciliation in the country, saying, “I’m extending my hand to those who voted for me and to those who took part in the elections.”
Georgia’s election authorities were not expected to announce the first preliminary results until later on Sunday.
Under Georgian law, a 50 percent plus one vote will ensure the victory of a candidate.
Business tycoon Levan Gachechiladze, a leading competitor of Saakashvili, won 28.3 percent and the other five opposition candidates won less than 20 percent of ballots in total, the exit poll indicated.
The opposition called for protests Sunday, saying the vote was rigged and the exit poll falsified.
“We will wait for results and documentation from polling stations, based on which we will celebrate the victory as Saakashvili is defeated in Tbilisi and many other regions of Georgia,” local media quoted an opposition spokesperson as saying.
Gachechiladze, backed by a nine-party opposition coalition, claimed his distrust of the exit polls and called on Georgians to take to the streets to protest against the election results, saying there was a “dictatorship” in the former Soviet nation.
Meanwhile, thousands of supporters of Saakashvili gathered at his campaign office for celebration and dozens of mini buses were parked outside a gym in downtown Tbilisi.
Dozens of motorcades with national flags sticking out were cruising around the mountainous capital and petrol police vehicleswere frequently seen on the street on the Orthodox Christmas eve.
If no candidate wins in the first round, a second round of voting between the top two candidates will follow two weeks later. The candidate who wins a majority in the run-off wins the election.
Two think-tanks, the Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development and the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies, have joined with the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs and government-funded Ilia Chavchavadze State University to carry out the exit polls.
Some 46 percent of the 3.3 million voters cast their ballots in the election till 5:00 p.m. (1300 GMT), the Central Election Commission said.
There’s no threshold for presidential election in the country.
Meanwhile, exit polls of two referendums held on the sidelines of the voting indicated that some 61 percent of voters are in favor of joining NATO, and some 64 percent of voters agree to holda parliamentary election in Spring this year.