Georgians vote in key election
TBILISI - Agence France-PresseGeorgians will head to the polls today for a vote in which opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili could oust President Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement, which has been damaged by a recent prison torture scandal.
Saakashvili and his billionaire challenger, Ivanishvili, staged rival mass rallies Sept. 29 on the final day of campaigning before parliamentary polls. Thousands gathered at a ruling party rally in the Black Sea city of Batumi, many waving national flags and chanting Saakashvili’s nickname: “Misha! Misha!”
Simultaneously, Ivanishvili’s supporters started to march through the capital Tbilisi to a mass rally in a central square, carrying Georgian Dream opposition coalition banners and chanting “Georgia! Georgia!”
“Saakashvili’s system must be destroyed. The fate of the country is being decided at these elections,” Ivanishvili told the rally. Ivanishvili charges that Saakashvili has established an authoritarian regime, but the country’s leader says the billionaire would stop modernizing Georgia and throw it back into its corrupt and chaotic past.
Georgia’s Interior Ministry, meanwhile, promised to prevent violence at polling stations. “I believe that we can ensure an environment on election day free of intimidation and pressure, allowing every voter in Georgia to cast their vote in a peaceful environment,” Interior Minister Eka Zguladze told Agence France-Presse.