Georgians vote Wednesday in parliamentary elections pitting the dominant party of President Mikhail Saakashvili against opponents embittered by a violent crackdown last year and a presidential ballot they claim was a fraud, according to AP.

The pro-Western president hopes to polish his tarnished democratic credentials, crucial to his drive for NATO membership, while maintaining his grip on power despite faded popularity in the former Soviet republic.

The opposition wants to weaken Saakashvili by shattering the more than two-thirds majority his United National Movement enjoys in parliament.

Less convincing gains for Saakashvili`s opponents appear more likely -- and could spark new protests.

Polls open Wednesday at 0400 GMT.