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EU Concerns About Tensions Ahead Of Georgia Vote

Leader of the opposition Georgian Dream bloc Bidzina Ivanishvili is challenging President Mikheil Saakashvili's party.
EU officials have urged the Georgian government and the opposition to “ensure a peaceful, enabling, and competitive electoral environment."

In a statement released ahead of parliamentary elections, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele expressed concern “about the growing polarization and tension in this context -- elections should be first of all about political programs and ideas."

Ashton and Fuele said Georgia remained a key partner for the European Union, adding that the October 1 elections will “set the stage for the quality and intensity of our relations in the future."

The vote will pit President Mikheil Saakashvili's governing party against the bloc headed by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Tensions rose last month after a court fined Ivanishvili more than $12 million for an allegedly suspect cash withdrawal.

With reporting by AFP