Belfast Telegraph

Georgian election exit polls contested by opposition

President Mikhail Saakashvili headed for victory in Georgia's election, according to a contested exit poll in the former Soviet republic yesterday.

The exit poll showed him winning 53.8 percent of the vote.

But the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points - casting doubt on whether the president would hang on to the absolute majority needed to avoid a runoff.

The opposition called for protests today, claiming the vote was rigged and the exit poll falsified.

Mr Saakashvili's leading challenger, Levan Gachechiladze, received 28.3% of the vote, according to the exit poll.

The US-educated Mr Saakashvili led mass street protests that ousted a Communist-era veteran from power following fraudulent elections in late 2003.

He won a January 2004 election with more than 96 percent of the vote and set out to transform the bankrupt country into a modern European state.

Now the Rose Revolution hero, who was much lauded in the West, is accused by his opponents at home of sidelining his critics and displaying an authoritarian bent.


From Belfast Telegraph