Rigging row over Georgia poll

Mikhail Saakashvili, the Georgian president, has claimed victory in municipal elections, but the opposition accuses him of seeking to falsify results.

    Saakashvili seeks closer ties with the EU and the US

    Saakashvili said at his party's headquarters late on Thursday that his group received 70 per cent of all votes across Georgia.

    On Friday, the Central Election Commission said that preliminary results for most of Tbilisi, Georgia's capital, gave Saakashvili's party 66 per cent of the vote; Republicans 11.9 per cent; Labour 10.7 per cent and the Industry Saves Georgia party 6.4 per cent.


    The commission said that a fuller picture might not emerge for another three days at least.




    Koba Davitashvili, the Conservative party leader, accused the government of dragging out the count in an effort to fix the results.


    "Not even an hour passed after the end of elections that President Saakashvili said that his party had done better than in the past elections and got a minimum of 70 per cent of the vote, and now the electoral commission is trying to reach that figure," Davitashvili said.


    Saakashvili rejected charges of vote-rigging.


    Saakashvili's popularity has plunged over the last three years since the rose revolution protests propelled him to power. Georgians have become increasingly disenchanted with the weak economy and widespread poverty.


    "We conducted democratic elections ... And I want to say that we conducted clean elections despite our opponents' pouring dirt on us," Saakashvili said.


    Strained relations


    Georgians were choosing more than 1,700 members of municipal and regional councils that will in turn elect mayors and administration heads, leaving the president choosing who to appoint to senior municipal posts.


    Provisional turnout among the 3.2 million registered voters was at 40 per cent, polls indicated.


    Russia's relations with Georgia have worsened steadily since Saakashvili came to power pledging to take the country out of Russia's orbit, rein in breakaway provinces and join Nato.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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