The opposition coalition, headed by billionaire businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili, is leading the parliamentary elections in Georgia, exit polls indicate.
Georgia voted in parliamentary elections on Monday amid heated rhetoric from its two major political forces and fears of post-election violence in this small, yet strategically important, South Caucasus country with aspirations of EU and NATO membership.
The Georgian Dream coalition took 51 percent of the vote while the ruling United National Movement (UNM), led by President Mikheil Saakashvili, won 41 percent, exit polls by pro-government Rustavi 2 and Imedi TV show.
Another pro-government media outlet, OGV TV, also gave the opposition coalition a slight edge over Saakashvili’s party, with 35 percent and 30 percent, respectively.
The exit polls by opposition Maestro TV say the Georgian Dream gained 63 percent of the vote, with the UNM receiving only 27 percent.
Exit polls were conducted four hours before voting stations closed at 8.00 p.m. on Monday. They register only the vote based on party lists, used to elect 77 of parliament's 150 members.
The remaining members are directly elected by majority vote in their constituencies.
Saakashvili has already conceded the opposition’s victory by party lists, but said the ruling party led in 53 out of 73 constituencies.
“We must learn to work together despite the tough election campaign,” the Georgian president said in an interview with Rustavi 2 television.