2016-10-08 18:39:00

Georgia votes for Parliament amid violence and political turmoil

(Vatican Radio) Georgians have voted in parliamentary elections to decide whether to stick with the ruling Georgian Dream party or give controversial former President Mikheil Saakashvili’s allies a second chance to rule the former Soviet nation. 

Saturday's vote was seen as a test of stability of Georgia, which is criss-crossed by strategically important oil and gas pipelines and traditionally buffeted between Russia and the West.

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:

Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili was among those who cast their ballots early in the capital Tbilisi in the post-Soviet Caucasus country's parliamentary elections. 

He even pushed a man aside as lines were seen forming here and outside several polling stations.   

Following a tough election campaign, the prime minister tried to smile to reporters with his wife and a son at his side.    

Polls suggested the ruling Georgian Dream party, funded by the country's richest man, was likely to win. But they also showed strong support for the opposition United National Movement of former president Mikheil Saakashvili. 


Saakashvili, a charismatic reformer who took over in the Rose Revolution of 2003, was forced out of the country after prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for abuse of power. He now works as a regional governor in pro-Western Ukraine.

The crackdown on him and allies has prompted Western concerns that Georgia could backslide after its relative orderly transfer of power in 2012.   

Election violence already overshadowed the campaign. On Wednesday a car bombing targeted an opposition deputy in Tbilisi. And during a political rally for an independent candidate two men were shot an wounded.

Whoever takes over will be pressured to improve stability in the country. That isn't easy: A fifth of Georgian territory remains under the control of pro-Russian separatists following a short war with Russia in 2008. And the economy is slowly emerging from a deep slowdown that has eroded living standards.

Analysts have warned that if there is no clear winner, the country could face once again political turmoil. Besides the main parties, Georgia's 3.5 million eligible voters were faced with nearly three dozen other groups and blocs vying to fill the unicameral parliament's 150 seats through a mix of party lists and single-seat constituencies. 

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