People in Georgia are going to the polls for an election already billed as a “turning point” for the country.
Tension is unexpectedly high, after the recent revelation of a prison abuse scandal shocked the nation and undermined the government’s image of committment to the rule of law.
The head of the Council of Europe delegation, Luca Volonte, said everything seemed to be running smoothly. “All the party leaders have agreed to abide by the results of the poll, one of the minimum requirements of good electoral practice,” he added,“and they have also agreed to be active participants in the next parliament.”
The pro-Western Mikhail Saakashvili came to power after the Rose Revolution of 2003 and weathered a five-day conflict with Russia in 2008.
But video footage of the abuse and rape of inmates at a Tblisi prison has undermined his projected image as a reformer who tackles corruption head-on.
The footage was shown on two TV channels hostile to Saakashvili, one of which is owned by his main rival Bidzina Ivanishvili.
The 56-year-old billionaire and his six-party Georgian Dream coalition hope to win over what polls suggest is a large number of swing voters.