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    Saakashvili facing runoff as he slips below 50% in Georgia election - 2

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    The number of ballots cast for Mikheil Saakashvili has slipped below 50% to 49.07% with data available from 974 polling stations out of 3,512, Georgia's Central Election Commission said Sunday.

    TBILISI, January 6 (RIA Novosti) - The number of ballots cast for Mikheil Saakashvili has slipped below 50% to 49.07% with data available from 974 polling stations out of 3,512, Georgia's Central Election Commission said Sunday.

    Saakashvili's top rival, united opposition candidate Levan Gachechiladze has received 25.54%, followed by businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili with about 7.5%, Labor Party leader Shalva Natelashvili, 6.8%, New Rightist leader David Gamkrelidze with 3.9%, and others gaining less than 1%.

    The candidate who gains 50% plus one vote wins the election. If none of the candidates gains the necessary amount, the election commission will set the date for a runoff, to be held in two weeks.

    In the second round, voters cast ballots for the two candidates who gained more than others in the first round. The candidate who wins not less than 20% of the total vote is considered elected.

    According to the Central Election Commission, Gachechiladze is leading in Tbilisi, but is far behind Saakashvili in the regions.

    The opposition says Gachechiladze gained 34% in the regions, falling behind Saakashvili receiving 44%, but won in Tbilisi.

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

    Gachechiladze has said the election was held with gross violations. "We will submit complaints on all violations during elections to the CEC," he said. Other opposition candidates also questioned the fairness of the election.

    According to a parallel vote count by a nongovernmental organization, U.S.-educated Saakashvili was leading with over 50% in Georgian regions, but was behind Gachechiladze in Tbilisi.

    Several thousand Georgians supporting Gachechiladze held a rally in the country's capital Tbilisi Sunday showing their distrust of the presidential election vote count.

    Russia's Foreign Ministry said Sunday it doubts that Saturday's presidential elections in Georgia were democratic because they were accompanied by pressure on opposition candidates and the "administrative resource" was widely used.

    "Reports from mass media, NGOs and opposition representatives have been coming on numerous violations of elections laws by the authorities," the ministry said.

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