Georgia ruling party claims election win, opposition cries foul

Tbilisi, Nov 1 (AFP/APP):Georgia opposition parties rejected early parliamentary poll results Sunday and called for demonstrations after the election commission announced the ruling party led the vote.

Polls in the country of nearly four million people regularly spark mass protests, with only one orderly transition of power after a parliamentary vote in 2012.

With votes from more than 58 percent of precincts counted, the Georgian Dream led the opposition by 49.32 percent to 44.47 percent in a proportional ballot that will decide 120 of the 150 seats in the legislature, the central election commission said.

The ruling party leader, billionaire ex-prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, said his party “has won elections for the third time in a row.”

“Georgians have elected a great team,” he added.

But opposition leader, exiled former president Mikhail Saakashvili, said Georgian Dream “is massively falsifying election results” and announced a “mass mobilisation (of supporters) to defend the votes.”

In an unprecedented show of unity months ahead of the elections, Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM) and smaller opposition groups have joined forces to challenge the ruling party.

They had held talks on forming a coalition government if they are elected.

Due to Georgia’s complex election rules the final makeup of the 150-seat parliament may only become clear in late November.

The election is being closely watched by Tbilisi’s Western allies to see if Georgia can keep up its reputation as a rare example of a democracy among ex-Soviet countries.

International monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe are due to present their preliminary assessment of the conduct of Saturday’s vote at a press conference later on Sunday.

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