GEORGIA ELECTIONS.jpg
Leader of the largest opposition party United National Movement, David Bakradze casts his ballot at a polling station during the parliamentary elections, in Tbilisi, Georgia, 08 October 2016.
Photograph: EPA/ZURAB KURTSIKIDZE

The republic of Georgia's parliamentary elections on Saturday were relatively peaceful despite some serious violations, including a fistfight and several procedural violations, the anti-corruption organization Transparency International said.

Transparency International has filed a total of nine complaints regarding the elections, the organization said in a statement a couple hours before the polls closed, adding that the fight occurred at a polling station in the western city of Zugdidi.

There was another a brawl of about 20 people at another polling station in the capital, Tblisi, and the Interior Ministry launched an investigation, local media outlet InterpressNews reported.

Georgians nationwide cast their ballots to elect all 150 members of the country's unicameral parliament.

"I do expect it will be free and fair in keeping with the last two major elections in Georgia," former US ambassador Kenneth Yalowitz told dpa.

The race is expected to be close between the country's two main political parties, the ruling Georgian Dream and the largest opposition party, the United National Movement.

Georgian Dream has capitalized on a comprehensive approach to regional ties, seeking integration with the European Union and at the same time maintaining a pragmatic relationship with the republic's former Soviet ruler, Moscow.

The United National Movement also wants closer ties with the EU, but has been much more critical of Russia. The party was founded by former president Mikheil Saakashvili, who fought a disastrous five-day war against Russia in 2008.

"I think Georgia Dream will win, but there are still many undecideds. The United National Movement will do well but come in second," said Yalowitz, who was ambassador to Georgia from 1998 to 2001 and is now a global policy fellow at the Wilson Center think tank based in Washington.

The run-up to the elections has been contentious. Last month two members of minor opposition parties got into a fistfight during a televised debate, and this week a lawmaker with the United National Movement survived a car-bombing in the nation's capital.

"In spite of the pre-election violence, I do expect the elections to largely comply with European norms and requirements," said Simon Saradzhyan, an international affairs analyst at Harvard's Belfer Center.

"The current Georgian authorities are determined to pursue further integration into the EU, and any significant deviation from standards would constitute a setback in that campaign," Saradzhyan told dpa.

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