Georgians vote in key elections

Georgians vote in key elections

Georgians are voting in snap presidential elections, in what is seen as a democracy test for the former Soviet republic.

President Mikhail Saakashvili called the poll, after suppressing huge opposition protests in November.

The pro-Western leader wants not only to be re-elected but to prove his democratic credentials to his critics.

Opposition parties have accused the authorities of trying to rig the vote. The government denies the charge.

Along with the presidential election, Georgians are being asked to vote on whether they should have a parliamentary election in the spring of 2008, and whether the country should join Nato.

Hundreds of foreign observers are monitoring the ballot.

Polling stations in the country of some five million people opened at 0800 (0400 GMT) and will close at 2000.

President Saakashvili has led the field of seven candidates in opinion polls, but it is not clear if he could win an outright majority to avoid a run-off.

The polls also suggest that Mr Saakashvili's closest rival will be Levan Gachechiladze, a wine businessman and independent MP chosen by the main opposition bloc as their candidate.

According to the BBC's Neil Arun in Tbilisi, heavy snow overnight gave the grey streets of the capital a bright, festive feel.

He says the mood is generally cheerful, with voters gathered at polling stations taking the opportunity to mingle with neighbours and friends.

At a polling station in Tbilisi, Nodar Zardiashvili said he had voted for Mr Saakashvili.

He told the AFP news agency that he backed the president "because he is doing the right thing by taking the country into Nato and the European Union".

Nino Saladze, another voter in the capital, said she was supporting Mr Gachechiladze.

"We've had enough of Mr Saakashvili, November was the last straw," she told AFP.

On the eve of the elections, Mr Saakashvili said Georgia was still a democratic pioneer among former Soviet republics, despite the crackdown on the opposition protests in November.

He said the move - which also included the imposition of a state of emergency - was unpleasant but necessary in order to prevent the government's violent overthrow.

"We have to show the whole world that Georgian democracy is still alive," he told thousands of supporters at a final campaign rally in the capital, Tbilisi.

But Mr Gachechiladze, who represents nine opposition groups, alleged "there are violations" in the poll, without giving further details.

"What is currently happening in Georgia is not a free election," he said earlier.

Mr Gachechiladze has also complained that "we cannot use media outlets or promotional means" and that a "smear campaign" was being staged against the opposition in the media.

Correspondents say Mr Saakashvili has run a well-funded election campaign, while other candidates have been much less visible.

Opposition groups have also accused Mr Saakashvili of authoritarian tendencies and a failure to tackle large-scale social deprivation in Georgia.

Mr Saakashvili, a US-educated lawyer, came to power after street protests in 2003, dubbed the Rose Revolution.

His first term as president has seen Georgia strengthen its ties with Nato and the European Union.

But relations with Moscow have soured and Georgia's economy has been badly hit by a Russian ban on Georgian goods.

Georgia's proximity to Iraq, Iran and Turkey makes it strategically important. A key oil export pipeline from the Caspian Sea also runs through it.

The West regards Georgia as a key test of Russia's readiness to respect other ex-Soviet states' independence, while Moscow is sensitive to any potential source of instability along its border in the Caucasus.

Weekly actual topics in Azerbaijan (April 16-20)
Weekly actual topics in Azerbaijan (April 16-20)
Weekly tenders in the region (April 16-20)
Weekly tenders in the region (April 16-20)
Last week’s laws, orders and decrees in Azerbaijan (April 16-20)
Last week’s laws, orders and decrees in Azerbaijan (April 16-20)
Loading Bars
Swiss to expand emergency aid programme as coronavirus toll mounts
27 years pass since Azerbaijani Kalbajar’s occupation
Putin, Erdogan exchange views on Syrian settlement
Cuba suspends arrival of international flights
Portugal prepares to extend state of emergency as deaths rise to 187
Turkey's coronavirus death toll rises to 277, with 15,679 total cases: minister
First Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva: May Almighty God bless the people of Azerbaijan and grant each of you good health, happiness and a long life (VIDEO)
Azerbaijan sees significant increase in volume of bank deposits in national currency
What sector of Azerbaijan's economy accounts for biggest share of credit investments?
Azerbaijan to change law on insurance activity
SOFAZ discloses revenues from Azerbaijan's major oil, gas projects
Azerbaijan's State Oil Fund releases sale statistics of its assets
Crude oil loading at CPC's Marine Terminal exceeds set monthly loading record
Volume of tea to be harvested in Iran announced
Turkey's export to OIC countries grows
Iran may export coronavirus diagnostic tests
Iran to increase online businesses amid coronavirus spread
Uzbekistan takes measures to prevent spread of coronavirus in country
Azerbaijan Industrial Corporation talks production process in current conditions
Azerbaijan discloses dynamics of developing collection of compulsory insurance fees in February 2020
Iranian minister talks railway, roads development in Iran
Food, medical products temporarily exempt from VAT in Azerbaijan
Uzbekistan sees increase in patients recovered from coronavirus
Azerbaijani state to support taxpayers
Uzbekistan to upgrade its drinking water supply systems
Iran calls for caution over extreme water consumption
Kazakhstan’s Association of Financiers: Economy to stay afloat if state of emergency lifted soon
Bank lending in Azerbaijani districts up
Turkey increases share of natural gas in electricity generation
Turkey increases LPG import from US
Operations of small mines to restore in Iran
Azerbaijan increases gas export to Turkey
Total's downstream earnings to progressively recover in 2021
Azerbaijan discloses dynamics of development of voluntary insurance fees in February 2020
Georgia evacuates its citizens from Bulgaria
Moody’s: BP's operating performance to suffer from severe decline of oil prices
UK's Prince Charles, recovered from virus, says it is distressing time for nation
Money supply in Azerbaijan increases
MasterCard talks non-cash payments, new technologies, benefits of digital economy in Azerbaijan (INTERVIEW)
Subsea 7 says COVID-19 may impact its ability to execute existing contracts
ADB announces two-year global bond proceeds of which to be part of its ordinary capital resources
Exports of products via Iran's Hamadan province announced
Turkmenistan's stockbreeders implement plan to increase livestock
Deficit of foreign trade turnover up in Georgia
Volume of problem loans decreases in Azerbaijan
Belavia airlines suspends flights to Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Moscow amid coronavirus outbreak
Azerbaijan's State Border Service talks another provocation of Armenian armed forces
ADB to allocate budget support to Uzbekistan
Details of licenses issued to enterprises made public announced in Iran
Two more government officials die of coronavirus in Iran
Uzbekneftegaz continues to renovate gas wells in Uzbekistan
Deposits volume of physical entities increases in Kazakhstan
EU proposes short-time work scheme to avoid lay-offs amid epidemic
Mehriban Aliyeva: Each of us must fully understand importance of measures being taken by state and show maximum civil responsibility
Michael Seibert: We don't recognize so-called "presidential and parliamentary elections“ in Nagorno Karabakh
Georgia allocates funds to stimulate economy during coronavirus crisis
Turkish Ambassador to Georgia announces plans for BTK railway
Business environment to be preserved in Azerbaijan thanks to tax benefits - MP
Turkmenistan to plant paullinia for first time
Volume of oil shipment from Ceyhan terminal disclosed
Volume of cargo transshipment via Turkish Ambarli port revealed
Uzbekistan takes additional measures to meet needs of its population
61 new coronavirus cases confirmed in Azerbaijan
Death toll from coronavirus exceeds 3,000 in Iran
Kazakhstan’s oil & gas company to buy pumps via tender
Petkim focusing on raw material production for medical supplies amid COVID-19
Kazakh national postal service operator to buy diesel fuel via tender
Azerbaijani Economy Ministry discloses details of state programs to reduce coronavirus impact
UK doesn’t recognize so-called “elections” in Nagorno-Karabakh
Azerbaijani increasing limit on preferential electricity consumption for population
NATO does not recognize so-called "elections" held in Nagorno Karabakh
Ambassador: Turkey to never recognize so-called "elections" in occupied Nagorno-Karabakh
Volume of cargo transshipment through Turkish Gulluk port revealed
Minister: Activities of all organizations may be resumed in Iran after April 8
Emirates to temporarily shift all cargo operations to Dubai airport
Indonesia confirms 149 new coronavirus infections, taking total to 1,677
BP expects reduction in utilization in Q12020
WHO supports Georgia's efforts to fight coronavirus
Inflation up in Uzbekistan
Number of COVID-19 cases exceeds 100 in Georgia
Kazakhstan’s KazMunayGas acquaints one of major service companies
Iran's National Committee on Combating Coronavirus issues warning to citizens on Nature Day
Deputy Prime Minister: So-called "elections" in Nagorno-Karabakh are not and will not be recognized
Volumes of ammonium nitrate transshipment through Turkish ports revealed
Turkey discloses volume of cargo transshipment via Port of Antalya
BP’s 2020 Upstream production be lower than in 2019
BP intends to reduce its organic capital spend in 2020
Turkey reveals volume of cargo transshipment via Port of Bandirma
Rouhani: Whole world must fight coronavirus
Oil prices may improve, even with prevailing coronavirus spread
Iran may ban lemon exports
Oil & gas companies to decide on further capex cuts amid COVID-19
Turkmenistan to build new facility for processing its own agricultural products
Peter Tase: So-called “elections” held in Nagorno-Karabakh is blatant act of provocation
Volume of cargo transshipment from Croatia via Turkish ports revealed
Has coronavirus affected Kazakhstan's oil transportation?
Azerbaijani community issues appeal on so-called "elections" in Nagorno-Karabakh
Turkmenistan takes measures to prevent coronavirus from entering country
Coronavirus-infected Azerbaijani in France describes ongoing treatment
Coronavirus cases count up in Kazakhstan
All news