US extends a hand to new Georgian leader seen as pro-Russian

Senate Foreign Relations Committee members Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho) applauded Georgia's first democratic transition on Tuesday after monitoring the former Soviet republic's parliamentary elections.

The opposition Georgia Dream coalition, led by the country's richest man, beat the party of incumbent president and U.S. ally Mikheil Saakashvili after a bitter campaign. Saakashvili, whose term ends next year, has warned that opposition leader and soon-to-be prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili could take the country back into Russia's orbit after making his fortune in that country during the 1990s.

“As members of the United States Senate and two strong friends of Georgians everywhere, we obviously have no candidate in this race,” the senators said. “We look forward to working with all of Georgia’s leaders to deepen our bilateral ties and help further strengthen Georgia’s young and advancing democracy.”

The U.S. embassy in Tbilisi also praised the election's outcome and extended a hand to the victor.

“We congratulate President Saakashvili on presiding over another important stage in the maturing of Georgia’s democracy and on his statesmanlike handling of these events,” Ambassador Richard Norland said in a statement. “We congratulate Bidzina Ivanishvili on Georgian Dream’s successful performance. The United States encourages both sides to work together to continue to build a better future for all the people of Georgia.”