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Georgian Opposition Denounces Election Results - 2003-11-20


Georgia's Central Election Commission has declared President Eduard Shevardnadze's ruling bloc the winner of the parliamentary election held earlier this month. Opposition leaders immediately denounced the results and vowed to continue with their campaign of street protests.

The election commission says the pro-government bloc won with just more than 21 percent of the vote.

A regional group which supports the president, known as Revival, came in a close second with 19 percent of the vote, while the main opposition National Movement Party was third with 18 percent.

The National Movement's leader, Mikhail Saakashvili, immediately denounced the results as proof the government had rigged the election. He vowed his supporters would try to prevent the new parliament from convening on Saturday.

This could set the stage for a showdown with pro-government Revival supporters who have set up camp near parliament. A Revival leader has said his group "will not allow extremists to break the constitutional order of the country."

The 75-year-old President Shevardnadze has rejected the demand that he step down and has repeatedly offered to hold talks with his opponents, which they declined. He insists he will serve out his current term of office, which expires in 2005.

Most international observers and foreign governments, including the United States, have questioned the fairness of the November 2 election. The State Department has urged all sides to compromise to avoid what Mr. Shevardnadze has said could escalate into a "civil war."

Meanwhile, although rigid in their positions, all sides continue to say they want to avoid bloodshed and are open to discussion.

But public anger with President Shevardnadze over his government's economic policies is growing, as the standard of living continues to plummet and the level of corruption hits an all-time high.

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