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22 May, 2008 15:44

Ruling party leads in Georgia

Georgia’s pro-presidential United National Movement is in a commanding lead after Wednesday’s parliamentary election. Exit polls show it has 63% of the vote after around 40% of ballots have been counted. Observers say they’ve found no major violations but

Georgia's United Opposition, who got 15%, claims the vote was rigged. However, it gets better marks from international observers, who evaluate Georgia's parliamentary poll as ‘a free election, with serious problems’, with the biggest of them being a lack of trust between the parties.

But inaccurate voter lists and other procedural violations were also mentioned by observers. The country's central elections commission says violations are being investigated.

“We don’t trust the exit polls. We are asking all our supporters in the whole country, all opposition parties to boycott exit polls, the exit polls that are prepared by the people inside the government, inside the ruling party,” David Gamkrelidze from the United Opposition has said.

Despite their defiant tone, opposition leaders do not appear to have significant public backing. A rally on election night failed to attract large crowds.

But although the ruling party have a huge lead, there looks set to be more opposition representation in the new parliament. President Saakashvili said that was a positive sign.

However, most of the opposition representatives likely to be elected are categorically opposed to Saakashvili, making any sort of cooperation unlikely.

The final results will be made public on Friday.

Relatively incident-free voting

The Central Election Commission in Georgia's capital was patrolled by units of riot police armed with water cannon in case of unrest.

About 55% of Georgians cast their ballots.

Levan Gachechiladze, the opposition leader, said he ‘voted for Georgia and for Georgia's future’.

However, while the politicians were casting their votes, Georgian TV reported a shootout on the de facto border with Abkhazia. According to Georgian sources, minibuses carrying Georgian voters from the breakaway region to Georgia came under fire.

Voting elsewhere has been relatively incident-free, although scuffles have been reported at some polling stations.

Both the ruling party and the opposition are continuing to accuse each other of dirty tricks.

“The opposition always try to blame the government and say they are under pressure. But unfortunately we have different information. In some districts there were violations from opposition candidates to destroy the boxes for votes and other equipment,” Gigi Tsereteli, a ruling party candidate, said.