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20 May, 2008 01:07

Georgia’s election hots up

Campaigning silence has descended over Georgia, ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections on Wednesday. Nine political parties and three blocs are running for 150 seats in the parliament.

President Saakashvili’s ruling National Movement is facing challengers from all sides. Many in the opposition are calling for a popular rebellion if the vote is rigged.

But local monitors seem cautiously optimistic.

“I wouldn't say that the situation is alarming. I think we still need to give a chance and to see and to give a possibility that election day goes in a proper manner,” said Eka Siradze, head of the Fair Elections NGO.

This week’s poll follows hot on the heels of January's presidential election. That snap election was called after police clashed with demonstrators in November.

The vote was given a passing grade by observers, but major problems were noted. The head of the country's central election commission says the recommendations from international observers have been taken into account.

Despite this, candidates from both the governing party and the opposition have been resorting to some questionable behaviour. A ruling party candidate was forced to resign after he was recorded pressuring local officials to vote for him.

And a prominent opposition leader has been accused of overly aggressive actions. He was taken on camera throwing a hammer at a group of policemen who were preventing him from entering the election commission building.

And as the poll approaches, the political temperature shows no sign of cooling down. Despite assurances that these will be this country's cleanest elections ever, trust between the parties remains minimal.