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    Saakashvili leading in Georgia presidential elections, gap narrows - 1

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    Former Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili is leading in the country's presidential elections with 55.23% of the vote, followed by opposition candidate Levan Gachechiladze with 23.86%, but the gap is narrowing.

    (Updates figures, adds details)

    TBILISI, January 6 (RIA Novosti) - Former Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili is leading in the country's presidential elections with 55.23% of the vote, followed by opposition candidate Levan Gachechiladze with 23.86%, but the gap is narrowing.

    With results available from 285 polling stations out of 3,512, a second round is still unlikely, as U.S.-educated Saakashvili has gained over 50% of the vote, but the opposition said the vote was rigged and is about to start a rally.

    According to the Georgian Central Election Commission, Saakashvili has lost almost 14% of the vote since the first announcement that he was gaining more than 69%.

    Businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili received 6.55%, followed by Labor Party leader Shalva Natelashvili with 4.52%, New Rightist leader David Gamkrelidze with 3.5% and others with less than 1% of the vote.

    A parallel vote count by a non-governmental organization also said Saakashvili was winning, but presented slightly different data giving Saakashvili 50.08% and Gachechiladze 27.2%.

    The Central Election Commission said the voter turnout was 56.17%, with 1,912,900 voters casting their ballots.

    The U.S. and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Saturday's snap election in Georgia, which was called by Saakashvili in November 2007 after opposition protests were crushed, was democratic.

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