The FINANCIAL -- EU president Herman Van
Rompuy on Wednesday urged Georgia to hold fair and legitimate polls in
autumn amid a bitter showdown between the ex-Soviet state's government
and an opposition tycoon.
"The parliamentary election in October and presidential elections in 2013 will be crucial indicators of the progress Georgia has made on its path to reform," Van Rompuy told a news conference during a visit to Tbilisi .
"I encourage all political actors in Georgia to support a tolerant political culture and issues-based debate," he said.
President Mikheil Saakashvili 's governing party and billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili's opposition coalition have been trading accusations and electoral promises as political tensions have risen.
As EUbusiness reported, both have promised lavishly-funded programmes to improve living standards in the impoverished Caucasus country and each has accused the other of abusing democratic principles.
Ivanishvili has been stripped of his passport for breaking citizenship rules and fined tens of millions of dollars for violating electoral laws after he announced he would challenge the governing party.
Van Rompuy praised Georgia's progress since independence, saying the country "serves as an example for many in the region and elsewhere".
But he said that all sides had a responsibility "to ensure legitimacy of the elections".
Opinion polls have suggested that Ivanishvili's coalition is so far trailing the ruling party before the autumn vote.
At the news conference, Saakashvili also reiterated Georgia's ambition to join the European Union.
"We are pursuing a path so that at a certain point, negotiations with the EU for full membership will start," Saakashvili said.