Sept. 28 - Georgia's parliamentary elections pit President Mikheil Saakashvilli's ruling party against the Georgian Dream coalition led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. Sunita Rappai reports.
Thousands attend a rally in Georgia's capital Tbilisi in support of President Mikheil Saakashvili and his ruling United National Movement party ahead of Mondays' parliamentary elections. Saakashvili has been fighting a heated campaign against this man - billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili heading the Georgian Dream opposition coalition - for control of the 150-seat parliament. The strong personalities of both men have led to a fraught, often tense campaign characterised by frequent fist fights between their rival supporters. But after years of Saakashvili's party dominating the scene, some welcome the new competitive atmosphere. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GEORGIAN FOUNDATION FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES (GFSIS) ANALYST, ALEXANDER RONDELI, SAYING: "In general it is very competitive and I think that Georgian democracy is going ahead." Saakashvili's critics accuse him of curbing political freedoms and leading Georgia into a brief but disastrous war with Russia four years ago. Ivanishvili, meanwhile, who made his fortune in Russia in the 1990s, has been accused of being a Moscow stooge. Georgia approved a constitutional reform last year which changed the ex-Soviet Republic's presidential system to a mixed one with a more powerful premier and parliament from 2013.