Georgians are voting today in parliamentary elections being seen as a test of President Mikhail Saakashvili’s commitment to democracy. The main Western election monitoring group says it has received allegations of intimidation and illegal campaigning by his supporters.
The ballot comes just four months after Saakashvili was re-elected as head of state following mass opposition demonstrations. Foreign observers described that election as “flawed” but backed the result.
The president’s United National Movement is campaigning on pledges to revive the economy, fight corruption and lead the country towards Nato and the West.
It is expected to remain the biggest party in the 150-seat parliament, while the opposition has already mobilised crowds to demonstrate against what it predicts will be a fraudulent vote.
Levan Gachechiladze, who was defeated in the presidential battle in January, warned that his supporters would take action if this election was rigged.
Residents in Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are seeking full independence, will not be voting.
Georgia is at odds with Russia over the two regions.
The main opposition block accuses Saakashvili of aggravating the situation. But it too is committed to retaining the geographical integrity of the nation.