Georgian election: Saakashvili collects 140 thousand signatures

December 5 is the last chance for anyone wanting to be President of Georgia to register for the January 5 election. Each would-be candidate must submit at least 50,000 signatures endorsing their candidacy.

The signatures will be checked by the Central Electoral Commission before announcing a final list of presidential candidates in a week's time.

Former president Mikhail Saakashvili, favourite to win the January 5 poll, was the first to hand over his signatures to the Commission. His supporters have gathered a massive 140,000 signatures – almost three times as many as required.

“Today we presented the signatures of Mikhail Saakashvili's supporters – more than 140,000. According to our legislation, the necessary number is only 50,000, so it means that Mikhail Saakashvili has great support in Georgia,” said Gigi Tsereteli, a Saakashvili supporter and member of the Georgian Parliament.

Saakashvili's main rival is the candidate from the united opposition, Levan Gachechiladze. His supporters have also managed to collect the 50,000 well ahead of time and are now focusing on the campaign.

“We have already collected enough signatures from supporters. We've more than 50,000 signatures, so it's enough to register Levan Gachechiladze as an official presidential candidate for the presidential election,” said Kakha Kukava, a member of the Georgian Parliament who supports Gachechiladze.

More than a dozen other presidential hopefuls have submitted their names to the Central Electoral Commission. They have until Thursday to hand in their lists of signatures.

Meanwhile opposition leaders in Georgia are calling on Germany not to extradite former defence minister Irakly Okruashvili.  They say it's for his own safety.   The rebel minister is wanted in Georgia on charges of abuse of power.
 
Irakly Okruashvili was detained in Berlin on November 27 following a request from Georgia. Under German law, Georgia has 40 days to submit evidence and substantiate an extradition request.