- Title: GEORGIA: Exit poll has ruling party winning first post-war vote
- Date: 31st May 2010
- Summary: TBILISI GEORGIA (MAY 30, 2010) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF RADISSON HOTEL (2 SHOTS) EDISON RESEARCH EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT JOE LENSKI AT START OF NEWS CONFERENCE SCREEN READING: EXIT POLL PRELIMINARY RESULTS AND LOGO OF EDISON RESEARCH (SOUNDBITE) (English) EDISON RESEARCH EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, JOE LENSKI, SAYING: "And here are estimates based on our preliminary exit poll findings. Ugulava - 61 percent , Alasania 17 percent, Chanturia 10 percent, Dzidziguri six percent, Topadze five percent." CHART SHOWING NAMES OF CANDIDATES AND PERCENTAGE EDISON REPRESENTATIVES AT COMPUTER SCREENS SCREEN ON THE WALL SHOWING RESULTS OF THE PARTIES IN ELECTIONS LAPTOP SCREEN NEWS CONFERENCE IN PROGRESS
- Embargoed: 15th June 2010 13:00
- Location: Georgia
- Country: Georgia
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA5YCRZVB9KT9PE72M8H87G2UVR
- Story Text: Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's party swept to victory in dozens of municipal votes on Sunday (May 30) in the first electoral test for the pro-West leader since he lost a 2008 war to Russia, exit polls showed.
Saakashvili's party won at least 60 percent of the vote in a series of municipal council elections, beating a fragmented opposition that has struggled to capitalise on public anger over the war and the recession that followed, exit polls showed.
Opposition leaders said the elections were marred by problems with voter lists, pressure on observers and illegal campaigning by the ruling party. Europe's top election watchdog, the OSCE, was due to deliver its report on the vote on Monday.
Ruling party candidate Gigi Ugulava won re-election as mayor of Tbilisi with 61 percent of the vote, a poll by Edison Research showed, setting him up for a possible presidential run in 2013 when Saakashvili is due to step down after a decade in power.
A rival poll by Rustavi-2 and Imedi TV said the ruling United National Movement party secured 60 percent of the vote across the country, with the opposition Alliance for Georgia bloc in second place with 16 percent.
Relations with former Soviet master Russia remain fraught, with some opposition leaders calling for closer ties in the hope of ending a Russian embargo on Georgian wine and mineral water, and restoring direct flights between the countries.
But an opinion poll showed that jobs and poverty top the list of voter concerns. The Georgian economy shrank 3.9 percent last year, but expects up to 5.0 percent growth in 2010.
Three election blocs and 14 political parties were battling for the support of 3.5 million eligible voters for seats in 64 municipal councils, including one in the capital.
Western support for the 42-year-old Saakashvili has waned because of his record on democracy and the war, when an assault by Georgia's U.S.-trained military on the rebel region of South Ossetia triggered a crushing Russian counterstrike.
Saakashvili says he has created a model democracy in a region dominated by rigged polls and long-serving authoritarian leaders. Critics accuse him of monopolising power, marginalising the opposition and manipulating the media.
Saakashvili faced down months of protests last year but his United National Movement still enjoys solid support. Opponents are threatening to take to the streets again if they deem the vote unfair, but serious disturbances are not expected.
"I want to greet and congratulate you. It is a wonderful day in Georgia today. And I want to announce the final result of today's election as the final result is another victory of democracy in Georgia and I want to congratulate all of you with it," Saakashvili said reacting to exit polls.
The Central Election Commission said no major irregularities had been registered by 6 p.m. (1400 GMT).
The opposition does not have a coherent or united platform, and has found it difficult to present voters with an attractive alternative to Saakashvili.
Europe's top vote watchdog, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which found serious shortcomings in the 2008 presidential vote, sent more than 300 observers for the poll.
The United States and European Union are keen to see stability in the volatile South Caucasus, a transit route for oil and gas to Europe.
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