TBILISI (Reuters) – The speaker of Georgia’s parliament on Monday signed off a law giving the assembly more power over the electoral commission ahead of a parliamentary election due by October, in what critics have called a pre-vote power grab.

Parliament last week overrode a veto of the bill by President Salome Zourabichvili, who was elected with the ruling Georgian Dream party’s support but has since accused it of anti-democratic and pro-Russian tendencies.

The law enables parliament, controlled by the Georgian Dream bloc, to nominate members of the commission from candidates chosen by speaker Shalva Papuashvili, also a member of the bloc.

Critics have said that the move will entrench Georgian Dream’s control over elections, at a time when the government has been accused of becoming more authoritarian.

Zourabichvili had said the changes could lead to a “biased and ruling party-controlled election administration”.

Polls indicate that Georgian Dream, seeking a fourth successive term, remains the most popular party but has lost ground since 2020, when it won a narrow parliamentary majority.

The party is widely believed to be controlled by its founder, former prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, Georgia’s richest man.

It has governed since 2012, the longest stint in power of any party since the South Caucasus country won independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

(Reporting by Felix Light; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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