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Coup claim rocks Georgia's election campaign

There's been a new twist in Georgia's close presidential race. A video has been released allegedly showing an MP linked to presidential candidate Badri Patarkatsishvili plotting a coup.

Georgians will make their choice on January 5.  According to latest opinion polls the three leading candidates are almost neck and neck.

They predict opposition leader, Levan Gachechiladze, will win by a very small margin with nearly 22%. Former president Mikhail Saakashvili is just one percentage point behind on 21%.

It seems likely that the presidential election will go to two rounds.

All the main contenders have aired promotional videos on Georgian TV. Saakashvili's feature him addressing crowds of supporters and meeting children and the elderly.

Mikhail Saakashvili's political advertising
Mikhail Saakashvili's political advertising

However, the opposition's campaign ads dwell on the violent dispersal of protesters on November 7, which prompted the snap election.

But as the campaigning reaches fever pitch, so does the intrigue.

A video has been released by the Interior Ministry showing MP, Valery Gelbakhiani, the campaign manager for presidential hopeful Badri Patarkatsishvili, apparently plotting a coup.

“We are going to spend a serious amount of money. We will take out the whole of Tbilisi to the streets. We will stage a very serious spectacle here,” Valery Gelbakhiani said in the video.

Gelbakhiani is also shown asking a senior official to arrest the Interior Minister, and to prepare for mass unrest in the days following the election.

The MP says the tape has been edited, but authorities are taking the matter very seriously.

“We must make every effort to prevent the country from plunging into violence. Some of the parties have voiced scenarios suggesting destabilization. We must avert that,” Nino Burdzhanadze, Acting Georgian President, said.

The government has alleged that the opposition will refuse to accept the results of the election if they do not win, and with the race appearing to be a close one, anything is possible in the period following January 5.