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Allies of Georgian President Appear to Win Landslide in Elections - 2004-03-28

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has pledged to work around-the-clock to create what he has called a new, unified democratic Georgia. The president's allies appear to have won a landslide victory in a rerun of last year's disputed parliamentary elections.

President Saakashvili appeared on national television to tell Georgia that he and his government will be working intensively on democratic and economic reform.

Exit polls indicate his National Movement-Democratic Reform Front received nearly 80 percent of the vote and all 150 parliamentary seats contested in the election.

Mr. Saakashvili also said his party has learned that they won the election in the flashpoint autonomous province of Adjaria, defeating Aslan Abashidze's Revival Party.

Mr. Saakashvili again took a hard line on Adjaria. He said the province will be brought into compliance with Georgia's Constitution and its people freed from what he called, feudal rule. He also said he was proud of Adjaria's people that they were brave enough to go to the polls in opposition. And he added that Adjaria was one of the most active constituencies in the elections.

According to the exit polls, none of the other 16 parties managed to get more than seven percent of the vote, the minimum required for a parliament seat.

President Saakashvili acknowledged that a one-party parliament was not exactly ideal, but he said it was the will of the Georgian people.

Western observers and elections analysts have said that the result, if confirmed, could endanger Georgia's prospects for genuine democracy.

First officials results are expected Monday, but already there is some concern surrounding the vote - namely in the autonomous province of Adjaria.

Georgia Central Election Commission chief Zurab Chiaberashvili said after the polls closed that there were enough violations to impact the overall vote. But he declined to elaborate.

Tens of thousands of voters turned out across Georgia to cast ballots. Many voters said they came to the polls for the first time in years, with the hope that their vote would translate into positive change for Georgia. One woman said it is important to vote to promote democratic and economic development in Georgia.

President Saakashvili said all the world is watching Georgia, and it must not disappoint.