TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Georgia's governing party, which has pursued both closer ties with the West and improved relations with Russia, took a sweeping lead over the main opposition party in national parliamentary elections, according to near-complete results Sunday.
However, the Georgian Dream appeared just shy of nailing down a majority in parliament, because more than half the races for single-mandate seats will be decided in a second round next month.
With votes counted from 99 percent of the precincts, Georgian Dream tallied 48.6 percent of the vote and the opposition United National Movement was at 27 percent, the national elections commission said.
A pro-Russia group, the Alliance of Patriots, was hovering just under the 5 percent barrier an electoral bloc has to clear to be allotted any of the 77 the seats chosen by proportional representation.
The other 73 seats are chosen in district races; of those, 47 likely will have to go to a second round because no candidate was getting an absolute majority of votes, the commission said.
Regardless of the election's outcome, the former Soviet republic appears determined to integrate more closely with the West, including keeping alive distant hopes of joining the European Union and NATO.
In all, 25 parties or groups competed for the 77 party-list seats, while more than 800 candidates ran for the single-district seats.
The campaign for Saturday's voting had been unsettled by some violence: the bombing of a prominent opposition member's car and shots fired at a campaign rally for another candidate. On election day, about 100 men stormed a polling station, throwing rocks. Police claimed the assailants were affiliated with the main opposition party.
Despite the violence "our overall conclusions are that these elections were competitive and well-administered and fundamental freedoms were generally respected," said Ignacio Sanchez Armor, leader of the short-term observer mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.