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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Thousands in Protest At Georgia Poll Result

TBILISI -- Thousands of opposition supporters marched through the Georgian capital on Tuesday to protest against initial results of a parliamentary poll putting veteran President Eduard Shevardnadze's bloc in the lead.

The crowd of up to 10,000 people, many shouting "Down with Shevardnadze!" and waving national flags, accused the government of rigging the election through the use of inaccurate voter lists, ballot-stuffing and intimidation.

"I appeal to you to defend your own votes, the dignity of your country and the future of our children," parliament speaker Nino Burdzhanadze, leader of one opposition bloc, told the crowd made up mainly of her supporters.

With results from only about half of the country's polling stations counted by Tuesday, two days after the election, the pro-government bloc For a New Georgia was leading narrowly with about 25 percent of the vote.

Opposition parties won more votes in total and may cause the government more trouble in the new parliament, but are still too splintered to unite and form a majority.

The opposition National Movement bloc led by Mikhail Saakashvili was coming in a close second with about 22 percent, and the leftist Labor Party was third with about 14 percent.

The Democrats, led by Burdzhanadze, trailed behind with about 9 percent, while the Revival party of Aslan Abashidze, the powerful leader of Georgia's autonomous region of Adzharia, and the New Right party each had some 8 percent, the Central Elections Commission said.

It was not clear late Tuesday when final results from the Commission could be expected.

The election's outcome is seen as an indicator of who could succeed Shevardnadze, 76, who cannot run for a new term in the next presidential election in 2005.

Saakashvili, a former justice minister who made fighting corruption the center of his campaign, has already said he'll seek to replace Shevardnadze. Burdzhanadze is also widely expected to run.

The protesters said they rejected any result which made Shevardnadze's bloc the most powerful in parliament.

"We are ready to fight to the very end. It's our last chance," former parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania, the other leader of Burdzhanadze's bloc, told the crowd as they gathered in a city center music hall.

They then marched down the main avenue through Tbilisi to Freedom Square, joining supporters of another opposition bloc led by former justice minister Mikhail Saakashvili.

Dozens of riot police and about 200 ordinary officers stood guard around government buildings as the crowd passed but there were no signs of violence. (Reuters, AP)