* Nationwide parliamentary elections were held on Saturday
* Near-complete results show ruling Georgian Dream party won
* Election was seen as a test of political stability
(Updates with near-complete results)
By Margarita Antidze
TBILISI, Oct 9 The ruling party in Georgia
decisively won parliamentary elections, firming its grip on
power in the former Soviet nation, near-complete results showed
With 99.41 percent of the votes in, data from the Central
Election Commission gave the ruling Georgian Dream party 48.61
percent of the vote and the opposition United National Movement
(UNM) 27.04 percent.
A U.S. ally traditionally buffeted between Russia and the
West, Georgia hopes to join the European Union and NATO one day
even though that is something that Russia, its former colonial
master, strongly opposes.
With political stability still fragile -- the first peaceful
transfer of power since the 1991 Soviet collapse only took place
four years ago - the authorities were keen the election be
widely seen as free and fair to avoid a return to the days when
politicians tried to seize power by force.
Georgia is criss-crossed by strategically important oil and
gas pipelines and a fifth of its territory remains under the
control of pro-Russian separatists following a short war with
Russia in 2008.
Georgian Dream, which is pro-Western but also favours closer
ties with Russia, declared victory shortly after polls closed on
"I congratulate you with a big victory Georgia!" Prime
Minister Georgy Kvirikashvili told jubilant supporters gathered
outside the party's headquarters in Tbilisi, the capital.
"According to all preliminary results, Georgian Dream is
leading with a big advantage," he said, as dozens of party
members waved blue party flags and balloons.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
said on Sunday the election had been competitive and that
fundamental freedoms had been generally respected.
With some parties threatening to organise street protests if
they do not get into parliament, the government is likely to use
the OSCE's assessment to bolster its assertion that the vote was
largely fair despite some problems.
The pre-election atmosphere was marred by a string of
violent incidents blamed by Georgian politicians on everyone
from Moscow to shadowy forces bent on destabilising the vote.
In one of them, a group of unidentified attackers threw
stones and smashed windows at two polling stations in the
village of Jikhashkari in western Georgia on Saturday night.
They also damaged the ballot box and attacked international
and local observers on the spot, the Georgian Young Lawyers'
Association (GYLA) said in a statement.
Before that, on Tuesday, a car bomb targeted an opposition
deputy in Tbilisi. Givi Targamadze survived, but five passers-by
In a separate attack, two men were shot and wounded last
Sunday at an election rally in the town of Gori, while on voting
day itself disturbances broke out in the village of Kizilajlo in
Georgian Dream, which came to power in 2012, is funded by
tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, the country's richest man, while the
opposition UNM was founded by former president Mikheil
"I'm happy that Georgian Dream has won. I believe that they
will do more for people," said Murman Sanikidze, a 37-year-old
Although the economy is emerging from a deep slowdown, many
in this nation of 3.7 million people are unhappy with their
living standards, which have been hit by a decline in exports
Ivanishvili, who made his fortune in Russia, helped end
UNM's nine-year rule in 2012.
Under Georgian Dream, dozens of ex-officials have been
arrested on charges such as abuse of power, though some Western
countries have accused the government of applying justice
Saakashvili, now a regional politician in Ukraine, is wanted
at home on several charges, including corruption. He says the
charges are politically motivated.
(Writing by Margarita Antidze and Andrew Osborn; Editing by
Clelia Oziel and David Evans)