The celebrations went on well into the night.
News that the six-party Georgian Dream coalition had won the parliamentary election in Georgia was welcomed in the capital, Tbilisi.
As dawn broke, Georgians contemplated the first peaceful transfer of power in their country since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
“I want to thank Mikheil Saakashvili for accepting his loss so well,” said one woman. “This is the kind of behaviour that you only get in democratic countries. There is no need for wars and bloodshed to change governments in democratic countries.”
The question on everyone’s lips is: which way now for Georgia? Will the change of government thaw the four-year freeze between Tbilisi and Moscow?
After apologising to journalists for his poor command of Russian, opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili continued in Georgian, saying: “We have a big responsibility and a big desire to normalise relations with our biggest neighbour. I understand that this will not be straightforward.”
In the short term, there could be an uneasy cohabitation. The 56-year-old billionaire philanthropist plans to become prime minister while Mikheil Saakashvili is president until next year.
Any instability in Georgia is likely to worry the West. It is an important route for energy supplies to Europe from the Caspian Sea region and also occupies an important geostrategic location on the Black Sea.
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