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Georgia: Early Results Give Government Lead In Election

Tbilisi, 3 November 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Partial preliminary results released by Georgian electoral authorities say the pro-President Eduard Shevardnadze (pictured) bloc "For A New Georgia" has taken the lead with nearly 28 percent of the vote in yesterday's parliamentary elections. Opposition parties have already charged the government with widespread irregularities and vote-rigging. The problems during the voting included complaints that some polling stations opened late or not at all, and that some eligible voters' names were not on registration lists.

Electoral officials said that according to the early results, the opposition National Movement was in second place with about 23 percent, followed by the Labor Party with 16 percent, and the bloc of parliament speaker Nino Burdzhanadze with 9.5 percent.

National Movement leader Mikhail Saakashvili, the mayor of Tbilisi, earlier declared that his party had finished first in the voting and has called on the government to accept an opposition victory. He warned of public protests if the opposition believes the official results have been falsified.

Twenty-one parties and coalitions were contesting the election to fill the legislature's 235 seats.