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Shevardnadze Endorses Rival's Election Bid in Georgian Presidential Elections

Tbilisi, 4 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze today endorsed Mikheil Saakashvili, the man who ousted him from office and is bidding to succeed him in a presidential election.

Casting his ballot in the capital, Tbilisi, Shevardnadze said he had voted for Saakashvili, a U.S.-educated lawyer who led a wave of protests that drove Shevardnadze out of office six weeks ago.

But he also warned Saakashvili, saying he should talk less and work more.

Shevardnadze was forced out by voters angry about plummeting living standards, official corruption, and a parliamentary election, which was allegedly rigged.

A total of five contenders are running in the election, but Saakashvili is seen as the frontrunner in the poll.

The only suspense is whether 50 percent of registered voters, the minimum required for today's vote to be declared valid, will turn out.