* Nationwide parliamentary elections were held on Saturday
* Exit polls show ruling Georgian Dream Party has won
* Deputy PM declares victory for ruling party
* Run-up to vote marred by car bomb, shooting
(Updates after exit polls, adds party statements)
By Margarita Antidze
TBILISI, Oct 8 The ruling Georgian Dream party
declared victory in a parliamentary election in ex-Soviet
Georgia on Saturday after two exit polls put it in first place
following a tense vote widely seen as a test of political
Criss-crossed by strategically important oil and gas
pipelines and traditionally buffeted between Russia and the
West, Georgia hopes to join the European Union and NATO one day
even though that is something that Russia, its former colonial
master, strongly opposes.
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.
Two exit polls showed that Georgian Dream, which is
pro-Western but also favours closer Russia ties, won Saturday's
election. One poll, from international market researcher Kantar
Public, put it on 53.8 percent. Another, by international market
researcher GfK, gave it 39.9 percent.
Both put the opposition United National Movement (UNM) in
"I congratulate you with a big victory Georgia!" Prime
Minister Georgy Kvirikashvili told jubilant supporters gathered
outside the party's headquarters in Tbilisi, the capital.
"According to all preliminary results, Georgian Dream is
leading with a big advantage," he said, as dozens of party
members waved blue party flags and balloons.
Deputy Prime Minister Kakha Kaladze told Reuters the party's
own data showed it had won around 59 percent of the vote.
Exit polls showed the pro-Russian Alliance of Patriots had
also - just - cleared the five percent threshold needed to
secure a place in the 150-seat parliament.
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 an election rally in the town of Gori, while on voting
day itself disturbances broke out in the village of Kizilajlo in
south-east Georgia where dozens of opposition protesters tried
to storm a polling station demanding the vote be cancelled.
Georgian Dream, which came to power in 2012, is funded by
tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, the country's richest man, while the
opposition UNM was founded by former president Mikheil
"I'm happy that Georgian Dream has won. I believe that they
will do more for people," Murman Sanikidze, 37-year-old Tbilisi
resident said on Saturday.
Although the economy is growing, many Georgians are unhappy
with their living standards, which have been hit by a decline in
exports and remittances.
Ivanishvili, who made his fortune in Russia, helped end
UNM's nine-year rule in 2012.
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.
(Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Stephen Powell)