Intimidation mars Georgia President's election victory

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The Independent Online

Early results yesterday showed that the party of President Mikheil Saakashvili won well over half of the votes in Georgia's parliamentary election. However, the opposition said there had been a systematic campaign of vote rigging and intimidation and claimed victory.

The election on Wednesday had been seen as a test of democracy, after the government used riot police against political protesters last November. Mr Saakashvili came to power in the rose revolution of 2003 promising democracy and integration with Europe, but his reputation was tarnished after the riots. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe's monitoring team said that the vote had been "generally... positive" but did note that there were "numerous allegations of intimidation, some of which could be verified".

But Mr Saakashvili said in a televised address that the results were a "triumph of the will of the Georgian people" as partial results suggested that his United National Movement had won 61 per cent of the vote, higher than pre-election polls forecasted.

After November's riots, Mr Saakashvili called a snap presidential election for 5 January, which he won in the first round, again amid opposition complaints. That election was followed by days of protests, but it seems that Georgians' appetite for protests is beginning to wane.

Levan Gachicheladze, an opposition leader, had promised to bring 100,000 people on to the streets on Wednesday night, but only around 4,000 showed up, with many people opting to watch the Champions League final instead.

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