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9 Jan, 2008 16:17

Georgia poll: Saakashvili named winner as opposition cries foul

Georgia's Central Election Commission has declared former Mikhail Saakashvili the winner of the presidential election. He got more than 52 per cent of the vote, which guarantees him a new term. That’s twice as many votes as his main rival Levan Gachechila

On Tuesday, Gachechiladze and his supporters stormed into the office of the head of Georgia’s Central Election Commission. They shouted insults at the Chairman and claimed the commission had deliberately lied about the results.

“You’re guilty of falsifying the election! You’re guilty before the people of Georgia. I promise, you will be punished,” Gachechiladze said.

“We have our own records signed by opposition CEC members and they show that we won,” he added.

Salome Zurabishvili, a member of the united opposition and the leader of the ‘Georgia’s Way’ party, said they had a proof that more than 60 thousand votes had been falsified.  

“Those are the ones that we can prove and nobody will steal away. We’ve already had the first round stolen away from the Georgian population. Nobody will steal away the second,” she said.  

The CEC strongly denies the opposition allegations. Levan Tarkhnishvili, the Chairman, says opposition actions are “an attempt to put pressure on the work of the Central Election Commission”.  

“They are trying to intimidate its members. As we have seen, one of the presidential candidates was to blame for this upheaval. And that’s why I was forced to leave that session. As soon as the situation goes back to normal, I’ll be ready to answer all their questions,” he said.

Foreign diplomats call for calm

In spite of noting some shortcomings, the thousand-strong international observation team gave the election a positive assessment.

Foreign diplomats in Georgia urged both sides to remain calm.

“The EU urges all political forces to respect the election results and to engage constructively and democratically in order to ensure that Georgia continues moving forward. A dialogue between political forces is an essential part of this process,” said Eric Fournier, French Ambassador to Georgia.

Unlike the EU and the U.S. which supported the legitimacy of the Georgian election, the Russian Foreign Ministry has labeled it ‘neither free nor fair’, referring to the lack of media access.

The opposition say they'll take their complaints to the election commission and then to the courts in order to protect their vote.

Opposition set deadline

Meanwhile, they're stepping up their demands.

At a small rally outside the headquarters of Georgian public broadcasting, Gachechiladze said the rally won’t stop unless opposition demands are met.

“First, we want to be able to address people on the air. Second, stop falsifying the election. We want a second round,” he said.

“Now I have something to say to Burdzhanadze and Saakashvili. I am willing to sacrifice my life in order to defeat you. I won’t stop unless you kill me,” the opposition leader added.  

If their claims are not upheld, the opposition have vowed to stage mass protests.

They have given the authorities until January 13 to address their concerns. If they're not satisfied they promise to bring the whole of Georgia out onto the streets of Tbilisi to protest what they say is a ‘rigged election’.