georgia-cp-4128111

Supporters of presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze shout slogans during a rally in Tbilisi on Sunday. ((Sergey Ponomarev/Associated Press))

Mikhail Saakashvili won a second term in office with 52.8 per cent of the vote in Georgia's presidential election, the country's Central Election Commission announced Sunday.

Earlier in the day, several thousand people rallied in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, claiming the election was rigged.

The protest was led by Saakashvili's main opponent, Levan Tarkhnishvili, who won 27 per cent of the vote.

He and other opposition leaders said there were widespread election violations, including the intimidation of voters.

Tina Khidasheli, a spokesperson for the opposition Republican party, said she believes some election officials prevented opposition representatives from registering their complaints.

She said two of her party members were beaten during Saturday's balloting and had to be taken to hospital.

However, election observers from Europe said while there were some problems with the vote, it generally lived up to democratic standards.

The election was originally due to take place in the autumn of 2008, but Saakashvili called the snap election after violent clashes between police and anti-government protesters last November.

In a crackdown that followed, the 40-year-old president declared a nine-day state of emergency in the country of 4.5 million and shut down an independent television station.

During his four years in office, Saakashvili has:

  • Cracked down on organized crime and corruption.
  • Modernized the police force and the army.
  • Restored steady supplies of electricity and gas.
  • Improved roads.

Despite economic reforms introduced by the pro-Western leader and roboust economic growth, many critics say the standard of living for many ordinary Georgians has not improved since he came to power.

Saakashvili led mass street protests that ousted a Communist-era veteran from power following fraudulent elections in late 2003. He won a January 2004 election with more than 96 per cent of the vote and set out to transform the bankrupt country into a modern European state.

Now the Rose Revolution hero, who was much lauded in the West, is accused by his opponents at home of sidelining his critics and displaying an authoritarian bent.

 

With files from the Associated Press