Georgia's Saakashvili challenged in parliamentary vote

By REUTERS
October 1, 2012 00:19




TBILISI - Georgians elect a parliament on Monday with tension high after a prison abuse scandal that has turned the vote into the biggest test of President Mikheil Saakashvili's grip on the Caucasus Mountain nation in nearly a decade in power.

Saakashvili, a pro-Western leader who swept to the presidency after the bloodless Rose Revolution of 2003 and fought a five-day war with Russia in 2008, hopes to head off a challenge led by a once-reclusive tycoon with a fortune nearly half the size of the former Soviet republic's economy.

He must step down after a presidential vote next year, when constitutional changes will weaken the role of head of state giving more power to parliament and the prime minister.

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