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Tens of thousands of opposition supporters gathered in Tbilisi on Monday
Tens of thousands of opposition supporters gathered in Tbilisi on Monday to protest against alleged ballot rigging at the recent parliamentary polls, as Georgia held a military parade to mark Independence Day.

President Mikhail Saakashvili's United National Movement won about 120 of 150 seats in parliament in the May 21 parliamentary election. The united opposition bloc received just 16 seats and threatened to boycott the future parliament.

Georgia's opposition has demanded the Georgian president acknowledge that the elections were rigged.

"We will demand an answer from everybody who took part in the ballot rigging," a leading opposition member, Koba Davitashvili, told protesters in front of parliament in central Tbilisi.

If Saakashvili refuses to do so, "the people would move to the place where he is sitting and demand an answer from him," Davitashvili said.

The protesters reached the city's main Rustaveli Avenue shortly after the end of a military parade. They said they wanted to "speak to the military and call on them to fight for Georgia's liberation."

Riot police equipped with ammunition, helmets, shields, truncheons and guns loaded with rubber bullets are guarding the parliament building.

Goga Khaindrava, an opposition leader, said the protesters would form a human chain around parliament.

"This will be a rehearsal of how we will prevent the first session of the parliament, newly elected through rigged elections, from being held," Khaindrava said.

Georgia's Independence Day marks the declaration of independence on May 26, 1918 during the Russian Civil War.

The military parade was opened by an artillery salute and a cluster of red and white balloons, the colors of the national flag. The parade involving 2,500 personnel and military vehicles was launched at 12.00 p.m. local time (8.00 a.m. GMT).

President Saakashvili congratulated the Georgian people on the occasion, and said he hoped that the day would become a "symbol of freedom, unity and a better Euro-Atlantic future for Georgia."

He rejected the opposition's demands, saying: "We will not tolerate the language of ultimatums. The people of Georgia has already made its choice and elected parliament, and it will start work in compliance with existing procedures," Saakashvili said.

"The ruling party received more than two thirds of seats in parliament; we respect the minority, but it must in turn respect the majority and the opinion of the people."

Tbilisi saw six days of mass opposition rallies last November, with protesters demanding Saakashvili's resignation over allegations of corruption and increasing authoritarianism.

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