Polls in the country of nearly four million people regularly spark mass protests, with only one orderly transition of power after a parliamentary vote in 2012.

Supporters of Georgian ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili's United National Movement watch his address on a big screen in front of the Parliament's building after the parliamentary elections in Tbilisi, Georgia, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020.
Supporters of Georgian ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili's United National Movement watch his address on a big screen in front of the Parliament's building after the parliamentary elections in Tbilisi, Georgia, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020. (AP)

Georgia's opposition parties have rejected early parliamentary poll results and called for demonstrations after the election commission announced the ruling party led the vote.

Polls in the country of nearly four million people regularly spark mass protests, with only one orderly transition of power after a parliamentary vote in 2012.

With votes from more than 58 percent of precincts counted, the Georgian Dream led the opposition by 49.32 percent to 44.47 percent in a proportional ballot that will decide 120 of the 150 seats in the legislature, the central election commission said.

The ruling party leader, billionaire ex-prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, said his party "has won elections for the third time in a row."

"Georgians have elected a great team," he added.

But opposition leader, exiled former president Mikhail Saakashvili, said Georgian Dream "is massively falsifying election results" and announced a "mass mobilisation (of supporters) to defend the votes."

READ MORE: Georgians vote in tightly contested parliamentary election

In an unprecedented show of unity months ahead of the elections, Saakashvili's United National Movement (UNM) and smaller opposition groups have joined forces to challenge the ruling party.

They had held talks on forming a coalition government if they are elected.

Due to Georgia's complex election rules the final makeup of the 150-seat parliament may only become clear in late November.

The election is being closely watched by Tbilisi's Western allies to see if Georgia can keep up its reputation as a rare example of a democracy among ex-Soviet countries.

International monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe are due to present their preliminary assessment of the conduct of Saturday's vote at a press conference later on Sunday.

Tight contest

Both the ruling party and the opposition have said they are sure to win, but analysts believe the outcome is uncertain, with the opposition enjoying only a narrow lead.

Due to Georgia's complex election rules, the final make-up of the 150-seat parliament may only become clear by late November.

Voting, which ended at 1600GMT monitored by international observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Exit polls were published when polls closed.

'Oligarch rule'

"An oligarch who owns some 40 percent of Georgia's national wealth has appropriated the country and is ruling it as his fiefdom," Saakashvili told AFP in an interview.

Ivanishvili, Georgia's richest man, stepped down as premier in 2013 after a year in office but is still seen as the country's de facto ruler.

"How could an election be seen as free and fair if the main opposition leader is robbed of a possibility to return to the country and campaign?" Saakashvili said.

Western capitals have accused the Georgian Dream-led government of mounting a political witch-hunt.

Nearly all of Georgia's opposition parties, including Saakashvili's UNM, held talks on forming a coalition government if elected.

Source: AFP