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Controversy Surrounds Abkhaz Presidential Poll

4 October 2004 -- Conflicting results for yesterday's presidential election in the Georgian separatist Republic of Abkhazia are casting controversy over the vote.

Earlier, reportedly official preliminary results showed presidential candidate Raul Khadjimba, currently the prime minister, leading the count with 52 percent of the vote. His main rival, former Prime Minister Sergei Bagapsh, was said to have garnered 33 percent of the vote.

But shortly after those figures were released, election officials were disowning the information.

Meanwhile, Bagapsh reportedly declared victory for himself, saying he received more than 50 percent of the vote.

Five contenders -- all having vowed to keep Abkhazia independent from Georgia -- are vying to succeed President Vladislav Ardzinba.

The central government in Tbilisi says the election in Abkhazia is not legitimate. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has vowed to bring the region back under Tbilisi's control.

(RFE/RL's Georgian Service and other staff/Reuters/AFP)

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