Georgia Billionaire to Face Ruling Party in Election Debates

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s ruling party has accepted a proposal from billionaire opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili to hold televised debates before October’s parliamentary elections.

Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili and parliament speaker Davit Bakradze will represent the president’s National Movement, Chiora Taktakishvili, a spokeswoman for the ruling party, said today by phone from Tbilisi, the capital.

Ivanishvili wants Saakashvili to participate in the debates, Maya Panjikidze, the billionaire’s spokeswoman, said by phone. The president won’t do so as the elections are parliamentary, according to Taktakishvili.

Forty-three percent of likely voters would back Saakashvili’s party, according to a poll of 1,503 people carried out in June and July by the International Republican Institute. Ivanishvili’s party had 24 percent backing, according to the survey, which had a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

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