Voting is underway in Georgia in a tense parliamentary election in which pro-western President Mikhail Saakashvili’s democratic credentials are coming scrutiny. The opposition, led by Levan Gachechiladze, claims the authorities have rigged the vote. He has already planned a mass demonstration to protest against the outcome.
Tensions have been high in the former Soviet state since November when troops put down anti-government rallies. The opposition subsequently claimed Saakashvili fixed January’s presidential poll, a charge he denies. Foreign observers backed the result but said that election was flawed.
The West’s main election monitoring body said in the run-up to today’s ballot it had found several cases of intimidation by state employees seeking support for Saakashvili’s party and that TV news coverage was biased. Saakashvili’s United National Movement is expected to remain the biggest party in the 150-seat parliament.