(Reuters) – Georgia is holding a parliamentary election on Wednesday.
Here are some details about the voting and the major parties:
ELECTORATE – About 3.5 million eligible voters.
POLLING STATIONS – 3,554 in 76 electoral districts.
VOTING HOURS – Voting opens at 8 a.m. (0400 GMT) and closes at 8 p.m. (1600 GMT).
RULES – Three political blocs and nine parties as well as thousands of individual candidates compete for 150 seats in a new legislature which will have a five-year term.
Half the seats will be allocated on proportional basis to parties clearing a 5 percent barrier. The other half go to candidates winning first-past-the-post contests in individual constituencies.
No election will be held in Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions.
RESULTS – First partial unofficial results are expected on Thursday. Final official results are due within a week.
OBSERVERS – More than 1,000 international and local observers, including 400 from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), will monitor the election. Exit polls and parallel counts will be held by non-governmental organizations.
Below are facts on the main parties and blocs:
UNITED NATIONAL MOVEMENT – Georgia’s ruling party led by President Mikheil Saakashvili, who promises to revive the economy, put an end to corruption, turn Georgia into a Western-style democracy and join NATO and the EU.
The party’s main election promise is to eradicate poverty and unemployment in Georgia.
UNITED OPPOSITION-NATIONAL COUNCIL-RIGHTS – Nine-party opposition bloc, the main rival to the ruling party. The bloc was created last year amid protests against Saakashvili. The bloc is led by Levan Gachechiladze, a wine entrepreneur and member of parliament, who was Saakashvili’s main rival in the presidential election in January.
The bloc criticizes Saakashvili for alleged corruption and eroding freedom of speech. Gachechiladze says he favors a less confrontational policy towards giant neighbor Russia.
CHRISTIAN-DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT – new party led by former journalist Georgy Targamadze, who used to host a popular weekly program at independent Imedi TV, shut down by the government last November. It wants to declare Orthodox Christianity the official religion in Georgia.
LABOUR PARTY – Leftist party led by a veteran Georgian politician Shalva Natelashvili. He ran in the presidential election in January and scored around six percent of the vote.
REPUBLICAN PARTY – Leaders include some prominent former Soviet-era dissidents. Identifies itself with the U.S. Republican Party, favors radical economic reforms and is against the CIS, a grouping of former Soviet states. criticizes Saakashvili for an autocratic style of government.