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Brief Clashes in Georgia as Elections Near

TBILISI, Georgia — Riot police clashed briefly with stone-throwing protesters on Thursday in Georgia, where the political temperature is rising ahead of local elections that will test the popularity of the ruling party.

Police with truncheons pushed back a crowd of several hundred anti-government protesters during a police parade addressed by President Mikheil Saakashvili on the outskirts of the capital, Tbilisi.

Opposition leaders said three people were injured. At least one was seen bleeding fr om the head.

Opponents of Saakashvili are threatening to take to the streets after May 30 elections, the first electoral test of his United National Movement since Georgia fought a five-day war with Russia in 2008.

The election arm of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is sending some 350 observers to the poll, which will elect municipal officials, including the mayor of Tbilisi, wh ere more than 1 million of the country's 4.5 million population live.

Saakashvili, who regularly evokes a perceived threat from Russia, told Thursday's parade marking Police Day that the "Soviet empire" was like a corpse "that has started to show signs of life again."

"I'd like everyone who is itching to restore the Soviet empire … to know that the Soviet Union is over in Georgia," he said.

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