A Georgian demonstrator carries a state flag during a protest rally against prison abuse in Tbilisi, Georgia, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012. Street protests against the brutal abuse of prisoners escalated Thursday in the Georgian capital, fueling anger against the Western-allied government and possibly boosting support for the opposition before a tight parliamentary election. Two days after television stations aired videos of guards beating inmates and raping them with truncheons and brooms, thousands rallied outside the Interior Ministry and the Tbilisi prison where the abuse occurred. The protesters, some carrying brooms, then marched down the capital's main avenue to the presidential palace to demand the ouster of the interior minister.
TBILISI, Georgia — Tens of thousands of opposition supporters are thronging the center of Georgia's capital in a show of strength days ahead of a parliamentary election.
An opposition coalition headed by a billionaire businessman is presenting the government of Mikhail Saakashvili with its toughest challenge since he became president nearly nine years ago.
The capital, Tbilisi, long ago turned against Saakashvili, with many people disturbed by what they describe as his authoritarian rule.
Monday's election is being seen as a test of Saakashvili's commitment to democracy as he tries to move the former Soviet republic toward closer integration with the European Union and NATO.
On Saturday, people of all ages converged on the center from four directions on streets closed to traffic for a giant campaign rally on Freedom Square.