Sunday, January 13, 2008

Opposition to Georgian Election Results

TBILISI, Georgia, January 13, 2007: Tens of thousands of opposition protesters in rallied against presidential poll winner Mikhail Saakashvili on Sunday alleging vote fraud.

Opposition leader Levan Gachechiladze called for a second round of elections.
Gachechiladze came second in the January 5 vote to the incumbent Saakashvili, who was the outright winner in the first round with 53.47 percent, according to final results issued by the Central Elections Commission earlier on Sunday.

The opposition has accused the authorities of rigging the vote in favour of Saakashvili, a pro-Western reformer who led a popular revolt in 2003 but whose popularity has waned because of continued high levels of poverty.

Salome Zurabishvili, another opposition leader and a former foreign minister, called on foreign leaders to boycott Saakashvili's inauguration ceremony.
Opposition leaders billed the rally as a show of force against Saakashvili, who was first elected with a sweeping majority in January 2004 in this former Soviet republic.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the main election monitoring group, said that despite some irregularities, the election had largely met democratic standards.
The Central Election Commission said the courts were considering a number of complaints regarding the election, and that so far more than 33,000 votes had been declared invalid due to irregularities.

The presidential election was called a year early in response to violent unrest in November, which dented Saakashvili's image as a democratic reformer in this strategic corner of the former Soviet Union.
US-backed Saakashvili now has a new five-year mandate to pursue radical reforms to transform Georgia's economy. He is also wants Georgia to join NATO and the European Union.

A flamboyant and multilingual politician, Saakashvili has won plaudits for pulling Georgia out of years of economic chaos and political instability.
But, while the opposition backs his pro-Western course, it accuses him of authoritarian tendencies and forgetting impoverished Georgians who have been left behind in free-market reforms. Addressing those complaints, Saakashvili told reporters on Saturday that he aims to eliminate poverty. He added that he wanted to improve relations with neighboring Russia.

Angered by Tbilisi's overtures to the West and its NATO ambitions, Moscow has imposed economic sanctions on Georgia. It also supports armed rebels controlling the Georgian separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

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