Georgians are going to the polls in historic parliamentary elections, amid opposition warnings about vote-rigging, the New York Times reported.
Voters in the former Soviet republic are choosing between President Mikheil Saakashvili and billionaire rival Bidzina Ivanishvili — a crucial test to Saakashvili's past near-decade of rule, according to Reuters.
Saakashvili, "who swept to the presidency after the Rose Revolution of 2003, says his main challenger Bidzina Ivanishvili will cultivate closer ties to Russia," Reuters reported.
The New York Times said the leader of Georgia’s Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, used his Sunday service to warn again voter fraud: “The ancient Romans used to say, ‘Vox populi, vox dei'... These elections are very important, and we expect there will be no violations and the elections will not be falsified. Those who the people want elected should be elected.”
“If there are violations, what will we then have to say to our ancestors? They will not forgive us,” he added.
Patriarch Ilia II 's comments follow the recent release of video clips showing abuse in the country’s prisons, a direct hit to Saakashvili, who has run on an anti-corruption platform.
"I'm voting against violence and abuse. How can I do otherwise after what we have all seen on TV?" Natela Zhorzholiani, 68, told Reuters at a polling station in the capital, Tbilisi.