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Opposition Questions Georgia Election Results - 2003-11-05

With nearly two thirds of the votes counted, Georgia's pro-government bloc, For a New Georgia, is maintaining a slim lead in Sunday's parliamentary election. Opposition supporters are protesting the results, accusing the government of cheating.

Opposition parties staged protests in Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, for a second day, accusing President Eduard Shevardnadze's government of rigging the results through ballot box-stuffing and intimidation.

Hundreds of opposition party members turned out to march along the capital's main avenue, after a demonstration one day earlier that swelled to as many as 10,000 protesters. No violence has been reported.

International election observers, led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, roundly condemned the Georgian poll as spectacularly flawed.

Final results have not been announced, but about 60 percent of the votes from Sunday's general election have been counted.

Georgia's Central Election Commission says President Shevardnadze's For a New Georgia bloc leads with 25 percent of the vote.

The commission says the opposition National Movement bloc is close behind at 24 percent, followed by five other opposition parties that appear to have picked up enough votes to gain seats in the new parliament.

The opposition alleges that the slow vote count is intended to manipulate results in favor of pro-Shevardnaze forces. The opposition has vowed to reject any result that makes the pro-government bloc the most powerful in parliament.

Late Tuesday, President Shevardnadze appeared on national television to say that he is ready for talks with the opposition. He also has said that any claims about the election should be settled in the courts, not the streets.