TBILISI - Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's ruling party claimed victory over the opposition Georgian Dream coalition in a parliamentary election on Monday, despite exit polls pointing to a close race.

An exit poll predicted billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream would win more than half the ballots cast on a party list allocating 77 of the 150 seats in the former Soviet republic's parliament.

But Saakashvili's United National Movement said it believed it had done well in voting to individual constituencies that fill the remaining 73 places in parliament, and that it was on course to retain power.

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