Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's party headed for a landslide win in municipal elections Monday but victory was marred after Western observers said the vote suffered "significant shortcomings."
Facing his first electoral hurdle since Georgia's 2008 war with Russia, Saakashvili's United National Movement was set to sweep the vote in 64 municipalities across the country and in the capital Tbilisi, according to initial results and exit polls, AFP informs.
The race in Tbilisi, in particular, has been seen as an indicator of who may run to succeed Mr. Saakashvili when his term ends in 2013.
Early results from the Central Election Commission gave a commanding lead to the incumbent mayor, Gigi Ugulava, a longtime political ally of Mr. Saakashvili who had 54.5 percent of the votes with 45 percent of precincts counted. His strongest opposition challenger, Irakli Alasania, a former diplomat, trailed with 18.2 percent, according to the commission’s Web site, New York Times informs.