Pro-Western Georgia holds knife-edge parliamentary vote

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TBILISI: Georgians voted Saturday in bitterly contested parliamentary polls that have sparked fears of political instability in the Caucasus nation, with two pro-Western parties tied after a fraught campaign. The knife-edge elections see the ruling Georgian Dream party, led from behind the scenes by billionaire ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili, grappling with the United National Movement (UNM), founded by exiled former president Mikheil Saakashvili. Tensions have risen ahead of the vote in the ex-Soviet republic—which fought a brief war with Russia in 2008 and seeks EU and NATO membership—after a car bombing and shooting incident at a rally. Georgia’s Western allies will be watching closely to see if the strategic nation—praised as a rare example of democracy in the former Soviet region—can cement gains after its first transfer of power at the ballot box four years ago.

AFP

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