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Concerns raised over Georgia poll

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili votes 21/05/08
President Mikhail Saakashvili's party is expected to win the poll

International observers say Georgia's parliamentary elections, which look set to be won by the ruling party, were not fully satisfactory.

The OSCE said the vote was an improvement from January's disputed presidential election, but was "uneven and incomplete".

Partial returns show that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili's United National Movement got 58% of the vote.

The main opposition - far behind with 18% - accuses the government of fraud.

The election is seen as a test of Mr Saakashvili's commitment to democracy, key to his aim of joining Nato.

'Imperfect'

The president visits a woman injured on polling day

"There were numerous allegations of intimidation, some of which could be verified," the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe said in a report on the poll.

"These elections were not perfect," said delegation head, Joao Soares. He added, however, that "concrete and substantial progress" had been made.

Matyas Eorsi, head of the group of observers from the Council of Europe, said: "Despite improvements to the election environment these elections did not make full use of the democratic potential of Georgia."

The BBC's Matthew Collin, in Tbilisi, says the government was probably hoping for a more positive verdict from observers to boost its bid for Nato membership.

Even I was astonished by the big level of support which we got
President Mikhail Saakashvili

Returns from 75% of more than 3,500 polling precints gave Mr Saakashvili 58% of the vote by party list and the main United Opposition bloc 18%.

Two-thirds of the parliament's 150 seats are needed for a constitutional majority under Georgian law.

'Astonished'

The partial results also suggested that as well as the two main parties, the Christian Democrats and the Labour Party would also win enough votes to take seats in parliament.

"Even I was astonished by the big level of support which we got in these parliamentary elections," Mr Saakashvili said in comments quoted by Reuters.

"There are no final figures yet but there is a very high probability that the National Movement will get the number of seats in parliament that would be close to a constitutional majority."

Soon after polls closed on Wednesday, leaders of the main opposition coalition said that the vote had been rigged.

The opposition largely shares President Saakashvili's pro-Western leanings but say he has failed to tackle unemployment and corruption.

They are also angry about riot police being sent in to break up opposition protests last year and say the government has taken on authoritarian tendencies under President Saakashvili.


SEE ALSO
Q&A: Georgian election
06 Jan 08 |  Europe
Profile: Mikhail Saakashvili
06 Jan 08 |  Europe

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