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Georgia: Pro-Western Reformer Appear Headed to Election Victory - 2004-03-29

Preliminary results from Sunday's parliamentary election in Georgia give President Mikhail Saakashvili's National Movement-Democratic Reform Front a resounding lead.

The chairman of Georgia's Central Election Commission told reporters in Tbilisi on Monday that first results show pro-western reformers will carry the parliament.

Zurab Chiaberashvili said latest results as of Monday afternoon give President Saakashvili's National Movement-Democratic Reform Front 76 percent of the vote.

But in a surprise result, he also noted that one opposition party appears to have reached the seven percent hurdle needed to win seats in the new parliament.

Mr. Chiaberashvili said the election was carried out generally without incident and was, in his words, free and fair. Mr. Chiaberashvili said the main exception appears to be in the autonomous province of Adjaria, where there were earlier reports of voter intimidation. He said electoral officials are still awaiting further results to decide if some returns will be invalidated.

But he said that overall, the results will hold, including Mr. Saakashvili's party's win in Adjaria, over its leader, Aslan Abashidze's, Revival Party.

There were fears that tensions over the vote in Adjaria could escalate into armed conflict, if there were reports of voter violations.

But addressing the nation late Sunday after the polls closed, President Saakashvili said he actually expected much worse from Mr. Abashidze's supporters in Adjaria.

He also said the vote proves Georgia's Rose Revolution last year was not just in the capital, Tbilisi, but across Georgia, which he has promised to unite.