A close parliamentary election in Georgia on Saturday is being seen as a test of stability in the ex-Soviet state after a car bombing and a shooting marred the runup to the vote. Crisscrossed by strategically important oil and gas pipelines and traditionally buffeted between Russia and the West, a fifth of Georgian territory remains under the control of pro-Russian separatists and the economy is emerging from a deep slowdown, which has crimped living standards. Opinion polls suggest the ruling Georgian Dream party, which is funded and controlled by the country’s richest man, is likely to win. But they also show strong support for the opposition United National Movement (UNM) and suggest many voters are undecided. “No one can be sure who the winner will be, but the vote is expected to be free and fair,” said Thomas de Waal, a Caucasus expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The pre-election atmosphere in the nation of 3.7 million, a U.S. ally, is tense after an opposition deputy’s car was blown up in Tbilisi, the capital, on Tuesday. Givi Targamadze survived unscathed, but five passers-by were injured.
In a separate attack, two men were shot and wounded Sunday at a speech by Irakly Okruashvili, an independent candidate and former defense minister, in the town of Gori.