Georgia set to voice NATO bid views alongside presidential poll

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Georgians will have the chance to express their views on the country's mooted NATO membership while simultaneously voting for a new president on January 5, the presidential press secretary said on Monday.
TBILISI, November 26 (RIA Novosti) - Georgians will have the chance to express their views on the country's mooted NATO membership while simultaneously voting for a new president on January 5, the presidential press secretary said on Monday.

As well presidential elections and the NATO issue, January 5 will also see Georgians voice their opinions on parliamentary elections.

"The plebiscite will address two issues," Vano Noniashvili said. "The first one deals with a date for parliamentary elections and the other with support for Georgia's entry into the military bloc."

Saakashvili briefly declared a state of emergency in early November and announced early presidential polls the next day to end mass protests in the capital, Tbilisi, where opposition supporters demanded that parliamentary elections be shifted back to spring 2008 from late December.

They also demanded Saakashvili's resignation, accusing him of corruption and growing authoritarianism.

The U.S.-educated Saakashvili, who was himself swept to power by street protests in 2003, has moved to integrate his country closer with the West, actively seeking membership in NATO.

However, Saakashvili's handling of the political crisis triggered harsh criticism from Georgia's Western partners, who warned that the brutal clampdown on protesters could hamper the Caucasus state's NATO bid.

The Central Election Commission said on Monday it had finished registering candidates for the January polls, giving its approval to 22 applicants.

Candidates for the presidency include Saakashvili, who formally stepped down as president on November 24 ahead of the polls, his opponent, billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili, ex-Interior Ministry troops commander Giorgy Shervashidze, and the opposition coalition's sole candidate - former businessman Levan Gachechiladze

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