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Georgian opposition cries foul ahead of vote

Georgian opposition cries foul ahead of vote
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The polling stations are all set for Georgia’s general election on Wednesday, with the party of President Mikhail Saakashvili holding a slight opinion poll advantage. Observers say it will need to be free and fair if he is to restore his legitimacy, tarnished last autumn when he cracked-down on the opposition.

Preserving territorial integrity from Russian-backed separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and NATO membership are the only issues on which they agree. Otherwise, the gulf between them is huge.

Saakashvili came to power in 2004 promising to get closer to the west, and his campaign videos have stressed familiar themes; economic renewal, and fighting corruption.

But the opposition, which led street protests last autumn that were violently put down, is already claiming the vote will be rigged. Its leaders have called for supporters to protest in the centre of the capital Tbilisi tomorrow at the close of polls.

Lurking behind the vote is Moscow. If international observers agree with the opposition, western support for Saakashvili may wither. Observers have already received many allegations of fraudulent practice.

Despite the two leading parties intensive campaigning polls say many people remain undecided.