Georgia Votes in Pivotal Parliamentary Election

Posted October 1st, 2012 at 11:05 am (UTC-5)
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People voted across Georgia Monday in a parliamentary election that analysts say could determine the direction of the former Soviet republic.

Monday's vote pitted President Mikheil Saakashvili's ruling United National Movement against Georgian Dream – a coalition founded by pro-Russian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. More than 51,000 international election monitors and observers kept an eye on the vote.

One-hundred-fifty seats in parliament were up for grabs. Ahead of the election, President Saakashvili said a victory for Georgian Dream and Ivanishvili as prime minister would shift Georgia away from the West and put it back under Moscow's influence – a charge Ivanishvili denies.

This election is crucial to the future of the country of 4.5 million because under its new constitution, the prime minister holds many of the powers that had been granted to the president. Next year, parliament will name a new prime minister after Mr. Saakashvili's second and final presidential term ends.

Ivanishvili's backers accuse the president of being a dictator. They blame him for the brief but disastrous 2008 war with Russia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Mr. Saakashvili's campaign also was hurt last week when videos surfaced of prison guards beating and raping inmates.