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    VOTE TALLY INDICATES LANDSLIDE VICTORY FOR GEORGIA'S RULING PARTY

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    TBILISI, MARCH 31, 2004, RIA NOVOSTI - The latest count of ballots cast in Georgia's March 28 parliamentary election suggests a landslide victory for the country's ruling party, the National Movement. It has garnered 67.02 percent of the vote, coming well ahead of its challengers.

    Zurab Chiaberashvili, Chair of the Central Electoral Commission, told a press conference in the capital of Tbilisi that as many as 1,518,751 ballots submitted by 2,779 polling stations had been tallied by 1:00 p.m., local time, on Wednesday.

    According to the latest count, President Mikheil Saakashvili's party is an absolute winner with its 67.2 percent of the vote; the Right Opposition Party of Industrialists, led by David Gamkrelidze and Gogi Topadze, is second with 7.62 percent; Adzharian leader Aslan Abashidze's Union of Democratic Revival is in third position with 6.02 percent; the Labor Party, led by Shalva Natelashvili, follows with 5.81 percent; Konstantin Gamsakhurdia's Tavisupleba party, which has received 4.23 percent, is fifth; the NDP-Traditionalists bloc, led by Akaky Asatiani and Bachuki Kardava, is in sixth place after winning 2.52 percent of the vote; and Jumber Patiashvili's Ertoba trails with 2.41 percent. All the other running parties and blocs have received less than one percent of the vote.

    Despite the fact that the Central Electoral Commission's database still lacks information from 89 polling stations, the picture is unlikely to change dramatically once that information comes in, Chiaberashvili said. So the figures cited at today's press conference can be regarded as the final preliminary results, he added.

    The vote count will be completed within two days' time, Georgia's chief election official promised the media. Ballots submitted by polling stations where cases of fraud have been detected will not be counted in whereas the ballots cast in the breakaway region of Adzharia will be processed separately, he said.

    The election results announced by the Central Electoral Commission have almost no discrepancies with independent vote tallies, Chiuaberashvili noted.

    A total 1, 532,521 voters reportedly turned out at polling stations across Georgia to take part in the March 28 legislative election.

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