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Georgia holds key municipal elections

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Georgia holds key municipal elections
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The popularity of Georgia’s President faces a crucial test as the country holds local elections today.

The vote includes the first election for mayor of the capital Tbilisi, a job currently held by Gigi Ugulava of the ruling party.

The post is also widely seen as a springboard for the presidency with Mikhail Saakashvili due to step down in 2013.

Ugulava’s closest challenger appears to be Irakly Alasania. He became popular when he defected to the opposition in protest over the government’s war with Russia two years ago.

Relations with Moscow remain fraught over the rebel regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The opposition will be hoping their calls for closer ties with end a Russian embargo and boost the Georgia’s beleaguered economy.

As the opposition is dogged by differences and does not have a coherent platform, however, it has struggled to present voters with an attractive alternative to Saakashvili’s rule.

Most opinion polls predict a comfortable victory for the ruling party.