( dpa ) - Georgian opposition leaders demanded a new round of voting Tuesday, rejecting as fraudulent presidential elections that handed incumbent Mikhail Saakashvili a narrow victory.
Georgia's electoral commission declared Saakashvili the victor of Saturday's poll with 52.01 per cent of the vote, in sharp contrast to the soaring ratings that saw him take office four years ago.
Slightly more than 10 per cent of the vote was still to be counted Tuesday.
Saakashvili's nearest challenger, opposition candidate Levan Ganchechiladze, gathered 24.98 per cent of the vote, according to the Central Election Commission's website Tuesday.
After a break for Orthodox Christmas from mass demonstrations that drew thousands into the snowy streets of the capital Tbilisi, the coalition of nine opposition parties set off legal action and further protests, threatening instability in the nation once seen as a model of reform.
European election observers gave the elections a clean bill of health, corroborated by the United States, while Russia, which opposes Western influence in Georgia, sharply criticized the vote.
Entrepreneur Ganchechiladze claimed on Tuesday that based on the opposition's own polling results Saakshvili "won only 41 per cent," less than the 50-per-cent barrier required to prevent a run-off election.
Ganchechiladze led an opposition delegation that burst into the offices of the Central Elections Commission. Russian television showed him brandishing allegedly spoiled ballot papers and confronting election commission chief Levan Tarknishvili.
"You're guilty of falsifying the election. You've stolen half a million votes. You've sneaked them from the Georgian people. Show the facts your hiding," Ganchechiladze said.
Tarknishvili called the accusations "groundless" and accused the opposition in turn of "falsification," according to news agency Interfax.
It was unclear whether the opposition would take to the streets as planned Tuesday as Georgia registered the most severe frosts of the past 15 years and temperatures plummeted to minus 25 degrees on Monday night.
US-educated Saakashvili, 40, who was known for his reform initiatives, said "unruly behaviour by the opposition will not be tolerated, but peaceful rallies are one of the tools of political campaigning."
Gechechiladze's coalition claims Saakshvili, who came to power in 2003 after ousting Eduard Shevardnadze in the peaceful Rose Revolution, has too much power. He pledges to dilute the power of the president.
Analysts said Saakshvili's narrow win has already weakened his position.
Saakshvili called early elections to counter criticism over November police crackdowns on opposition activists and his subsequent imposition of a state of emergency.
Though the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) noted the advantage of administrative resources enjoyed by Saakshvili during the campaign, the watchdog called the vote a "triumph of democracy."
The head of the OSCE watchdog mission, US congressman Alice Hastings, said the vote was "a valid expression of the Georgian people's will."
The Russian Foreign Ministry rejected OSCE's approval, saying the comments seemed "superficial."
The relationship between Russia and former Soviet republic Georgia has deteriorated during pro-Western Saakashvili's term.
The geo-strategically important country, lying at the crossroads of oil and gas routes and close to Iraq, has become the site of a battle over influence between Moscow and Washington.
The opposition also leans towards the West.