Opposition supporters celebrate Georgian election win

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Several thousand Georgian opposition supporters came to central streets of the capital Tbilisi late on Monday (October 1) to celebrate what they saw as the election win in a contentious parliamentary poll.

Both the opposition coalition Georgian Dream and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's ruling United National Movement (UNM) party claimed victory in a parliamentary election in the former Soviet republic, raising the prospect of a post-election standoff.

Any signs of instability in the Caucasus country of 4.5 million would worry the West because of its role as a conduit for Caspian Sea energy supplies to Europe and its pivotal location between Russia, Iran, Turkey and central Asia.

The private Imedi channel loyal to the government predicted billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream would win 50 percent of the ballots in party-list voting allocating 77 of the 150 seats in parliament, compared to 41 percent for Saakashvili's UNM.

A separate exit poll reported by the Georgian public broadcaster put Georgian Dream and UNM level at 33 percent. Two polls cited by pro-opposition channels put Georgian Dream far ahead.

But UNM said it believed it had won at least 53 of the 73 seats to be allotted in elections in individual constituencies.

Saakashvili says Ivanishvili would move Georgia away from the West and bring it back into Moscow's orbit. Ivanishvili, with a fortune estimated by Forbes magazine at $6.4 billion or nearly half the size of Georgia's economy, denies this.

Ivanishvili, who entered politics only a year ago, said he believed his six-party coalition would dominate the assembly.

Georgian Dream supporters celebrated in central Tbilisi, waving flags and honking car horns.

The first partial results are due in the early hours on Tuesday (October 2) but it was not clear when the final result would be known.