Georgia ruling party leads in local vote count

Georgian President`s ruling party was headed for a crushing victory in nationwide municipal elections.

Tbilisi: Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili`s ruling party was headed for a crushing victory in nationwide municipal elections, partial results showed on Monday.

With ballots counted in 21 percent of voting precincts across the country, Saakashvili`s United National Movement was leading with 64 percent of the vote, followed by the Christian Democrats with 12 percent and the Alliance for Georgia with 10 percent, according to results posted on the Central Election Commission website.

In the capital Tbilisi, incumbent mayor Gigi Ugulava, a key Saakashvili ally, was leading with 53 percent of the vote with 22 percent of precincts reporting.

Main opposition contender Irakli Alasania, a former ambassador to the United Nations, trailed with 19 percent.

With votes counted in 23 percent of precincts in the race for the Tbilisi city council, Saakashvili`s party was also well ahead with 51 percent of votes, followed by Alasania`s Alliance for Georgia with 17 percent.

Voters cast ballots on Sunday in municipal elections for 1,730 positions in 64 municipalities across the former Soviet republic, in the first electoral test for Saakashvili since Georgia`s 2008 war with Russia. Voter turnout was 49 percent, the Central Election Commission said.

The vote was the first-ever direct election for the mayor`s post in Tbilisi, a position seen as a potential springboard for the presidency after Saakashvili`s second term ends in 2013.

Analysts say the election is being closely watched abroad for signs that pro-Western Saakashvili remains committed to democratic reforms. International observers are to release a report on the conduct of the vote on Monday.

Bureau Report

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