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President Mikheil Saakashvili, who has ruled Georgia virtually unchallenged for nearly nine years, declared Tuesday that his party had lost parliamentary elections and would go into opposition.

The election was monitored by hundreds of international observers, including teams from the Washington-based International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute. “We have gone through the single most competitive election in the history of the country,” said Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), who was an IRI delegation leader.

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