September 30, 2012
Saakashvili: Georgia Election to Decide 'Important and Crucial' Question
Georgian President President Mikhail Saakashvili says Monday's parliamentary election will decide a very important and crucial question about the country's future.
Voters will choose candidates for 150 seats in parliament. Georgia has changed the constitution to give the prime minister many of the powers now held by the president. Parliament will name a new prime minister next year after Mr. Saakashvili's second and last presidential term ends.
Monday's election pits Saakashvili's ruling United National Movement against Georgian Dream, a coalition founded by pro-Russian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili.
Mr. Saakashvili says 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.
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 was hurt last week when videos surfaced of prison guards beating and raping inmates.
More than 51,000 international election monitors and observers will keep an eye on Monday's voting.