Exit polls indicate that Giorgi Margvelashvili, an ally of Georgian Prime Minister Bidzi Ivanishvili, has won the presidential election in Georgia.
Margvelashvili, 44, has won 66 to 68 percent of the vote, according to exit surveys, in an election that pitted him against a member of the current president’s party, David Bakradze. Only 20.2 percent of voters chose Bakradze, according to the exit polls.
Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, has spent two terms in office and cannot seek a third term.
During a turbulent decade, Saakashvili – who came to power after ousting Eduard Shevardnadze in the 2003 "Rose Revolution" – cut corruption, built new infrastructure and revived Georgia's economy.
But his reforms angered many and police brutality used in crushing opposition protests tarnished his image as a pioneering democrat.
Last year, Prime Minister Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream party won parliamentary elections.
Ivanishvili, a billionaire who is Georgia’s wealthiest citizen, has said he plans to resign a week after the new president is inaugurated on Nov. 17, since he has achieved his aim of nurturing multi-party politics. Previously, he said, the nation looked to a “messiah” to lead it.
Georgia under Saakashvili made joining NATO and the European Union a main priority, and Ivanishvili's coalition has pledged to press on with that drive.
They have also promised to try to mend ties with Moscow shattered by a brief 2008 war that saw Georgia effectively lose two breakaway regions.
Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.