Georgia votes in ‘historic’ election, litmus test for Mikheil Saakashvili

Monday, October 01, 2012
Mikhail Saakashvili, third and current
President of Georgia and leader of the United National Movement Party [File Photo]
Tbilisi: People in Georgia voted in ‘historic’ parliamentary election on Monday to choose a new parliament.
The election is considered to decide the fate of the nation and to decide the future of the pro-Western government of President Mikhail Saakashvili who came in power in 2003.

"It is a day of historic importance for Georgia. The fate of the Georgian state is being decided," Mr Saakashvili, whose campaign was hurt by the prison abuse scandal, said after casting his ballot in Tbilisi.

Voters are choosing candidates for 150 seats in parliament. Georgia has changed the constitution to give the prime minister many of the powers now held by the president. Parliament will name a new prime minister next year after Mr. Saakashvili's second and last presidential term ends.

Monday's election pits Mr. Saakashvili's ruling United National Movement against Georgian Dream – a coalition founded by pro-Russian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Mr. Saakashvili said a victory for Georgian Dream and Ivanishvili as prime minister would shift Georgia away from the West.

Ivanishvili's backers accused the president of being a dictator. They blame him for the brief but disastrous 2008 war with Russia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Mr. Saakashvili's campaign was hurt last week when videos surfaced of prison guards beating and raping inmates.

More than 51,000 international election monitors and observers are keeping an eye on Monday's voting.
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