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Seven candidates to run for president in Georgia Jan. 5

TBILISI, December 11 (RIA Novosti) - Georgia's central election commission said on Tuesday it had concluded the registration of candidates for next year's early presidential elections and published a list of seven hopefuls.

"The commission has completed the registration process... seven candidates will take part in the January 5, 2008 elections," the commission's press service said.

Contenders for the presidency in the ex-Soviet Caucasus state, include Mikheil Saakashvili, who stepped down as president in late November to start his campaign, the opposition's single candidate Levan Gachechiladze, and the foreign-based billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili.

Patarkatsishvili earlier said he would come to Georgia to campaign soon, although authorities have accused him of inciting a coup in early November, when thousands of protesters took to the streets to demand Saakashvili's resignation and more parliamentary power.

A total of 22 people earlier announced plans to run in the snap polls Saakashvili announced after riot police brutally clamped down on protests in Tbilisi in Georgia's worst political crisis since the 2003 peaceful "rose revolution" that brought him to power.

But the majority of candidates, many of whom were relatively unknown figures, have failed to secure sufficient support. To get registered, the candidates had to collect 50,000 signatures to back their application.

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