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Georgian Ruling Party Accused Of Intimidating Voters

People walk past election posters in the center of Tbilisi
People walk past election posters in the center of Tbilisi
TBILISI -- Some Georgians are accusing the ruling United National Movement of intimidating people not to vote for opposition parties in the upcoming local elections, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reports.

Several people, who asked to remain anonymous, have contacted RFE/RL and claimed to have received pressure from ruling party members about their vote.

They told RFE/RL that National Movement supporters have visited families and asked which party people will be voting for in the May 30 local elections. They said if the ruling party activists hear that people may be voting for the opposition than they have threatened to pass that information on to their headquarters, which the activists said could "cause some problems" for them.

But Zviad Khmaladze, chairman of the Gori city council and a ruling party member, said such charges are "ludicrous." He said the only goal of the activists who visit with families is to distribute political pamphlets and introduce the ruling party's programs to voters.

Khvicha Sadzaglishvili told RFE/RL that his relative in Gori, who works as a gardener, was told he would lose his job if he attended a rally for Irakli Alasania, the leader of the opposition party Our Georgia -- Free Democrats. "People have no [real] choice than to obey," he said.

Alasania has also accused the government of threatening voters. "They tell people that it will be easy to find out who voted for the opposition as the ballots will be coded," he said. "Thus, the outcome of the elections will be result of total intimidation."

The leader of the Christian-Democratic Party, Giorgi Targamadze, also said that voters' rights are often violated in Georgia.

"There have been some very comical stories as well," he said. "For instance, inhabitants of distant villages told me that authorities threaten to identity them by their fingerprints on the voting ballots. This is technically impossible; however people in remote villages are more easily manipulated and terrorized."

With one week to go before the elections there have not been any claims about voters' rights violations submitted to the Gori district electoral commission.