* Nationwide parliamentary elections being held on Saturday
* Vote will decide make-up of 150-seat parliament
* Run-up to vote marred by car bomb, shooting
* Ruling Georgian Dream party faces voter wrath over economy
By Margarita Antidze
TBILISI, Oct 8 Georgia holds a parliamentary
election on Saturday seen as a test of the stability of the
ex-Soviet state criss-crossed by strategically important oil and
gas pipelines and traditionally buffeted between Russia and the
A fifth of Georgian territory remains under the control of
pro-Russian separatists following a short war with Russia in
2008 and the economy is emerging from a deep slowdown that has
eroded living standards.
Polls suggest the ruling Georgian Dream party, funded by the
country's richest man, is likely to win. But they also show
strong support for the opposition United National Movement (UNM)
and that many voters are undecided.
The pre-election atmosphere in the nation of 3.7 million, a
U.S. ally, was marred by a car bomb that targeted an opposition
deputy in Tbilisi. Givi Targamadze survived, but five passers-by
In a separate attack, two men were shot and wounded on
Sunday at a speech by Irakly Okruashvili, an independent
candidate, in the town of Gori.
Both the government and the opposition would like to see
Georgia join the European Union and NATO, but such a move would
be strongly resisted by Moscow. Georgian Dream also favours
stronger ties with Russia.
"The two biggest parties will definitely make it into
parliament, but other parties also have some chances and there
will be some room for coalition building," said Koba Turmanidze,
director of the Tbilisi-based Caucasus Research Resource Centre.
The pro-Western Free Democrats and the pro-Russian Alliance
of Patriots may be among those who clear the 5 percent threshold
needed to get into the 150-seat parliament, analysts say.
Georgian Dream was founded by billionaire Bidzina
Ivanishvili, who made his fortune in Russia. It came to power in
2012, ending the nine-year rule of former President Mikheil
It was the first peaceful transfer of power since the 1991
Soviet collapse and followed protests over a scandal involving
the mistreatment of prison inmates and accusations that
Saakashvili, who was feted in the West for his reforms, was
behaving in an authoritarian manner.
Under Georgian Dream, dozens of ex-officials have been
arrested on charges such as abuse of power, and some Western
countries have accused the government of selectively applying
Saakashvili, now a regional politician in Ukraine, is wanted
at home on a string of charges, including corruption. He says
the charges are politically motivated.
Many Georgians accuse the government of mishandling the
economy, which has been hit by a decline in exports and
remittances despite expanding by 2.7 percent in the first eight
months of this year.
"Prices rise, the lari (the national currency) falls, loans
are more expensive. Who should I blame if not the government?"
said Kakhaber Japaridze, a 52-year-old Tbilisi resident.
(Editing by Andrew Osborn and Ralph Boulton)