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Saakashvili rival says Georgia government's days numbered

Saakashvili rival says Georgia government's days numbered
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Tens of thousands of supporters of Georgia’s opposition coalition have rallied ahead of Monday’s parliamentary election.

Tension has been rising after days of demonstrations over a prison brutality scandal that has come to dominate the campaign.

The leader of the six-party Georgian Dream told the crowd in Tbilisi the days of the current government under President Saakashvili were numbered.

Bidzina Ivanishvili used his final appeal to voters to challenge the government’s record.

“All people are standing by us: ethnic minorities – Azerbaijanis, Armenians, Jews. This is a great example to show the whole world that our nation deserves real democracy and real success,” he said.

The billionaire has come under scrutiny over his Russian fortune – believed to be worth almost half of Georgia’s economic output – and alleged links to the Kremlin.

The prisons scandal has diverted attention from him, but it has also increased tensions.

TV reports exposed prison guards abusing inmates, prompting nationwide protests. The government told euronews it recognised there was a problem.

“Torture was systemic in Georgian police and it’s not like that any longer. But prison system was somehow neglected. It was considered that prisons are calm… So it was considered that, ok, there might be some problems but not so serious,” said Prisons Minister Giorgi Tughushi.

The Georgian interior ministry has rejected accusations from civic rights organisations that the authorities had illegally detained more than 20 activists, saying those being held had harassed police officers.

Western organisations have called for restraint amid fears of election violence.

The vote will be followed by a presidential election next year, after which power is due to be largely devolved to the prime minister.