MOSCOW, OCT. 29 -- A non-Communist coalition, running on a platform of independence from the Soviet Union and the creation of a capitalist economy, won overwhelmingly in Sunday's legislative elections in the Soviet republic of Georgia, official reports said today.
Led by former dissident Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the seven-party Georgian Round Table defeated the Communist Party by a 2-to-1 margin, with more than 90 percent of the districts in the southern republic reporting.
Although non-Communists have won elections in other republics, this was the first officially sanctioned multi-party election in the Soviet Union since the Communist Party gave up its constitutional guarantee on power earlier this year.
Gamsakhurdia said in a recent interview that he envisioned an independent Georgia by 1993. He said it would develop a capitalist economy but retain economic links with the Soviet Union.
"That is what the people demand and we have not a minute to lose," he said.
Gamsakhurdia, who is expected to make a bid to become the new president of the republic, will control at least 110 of the 250 seats in the Georgian Soviet, or assembly, by far the biggest bloc. The Communist Party, which did best in rural, non-Georgian regions of the republic, is expected to control about 25 seats, according to election officials. Nearly all smaller parties holding the remainder of the seats are more sympathetic to the Round Table than to the Communists.
Thirty-five parties took part in the elections, although nearly all of them formed into coalitions because of the rule specifying that a party must get at least 4 percent of the vote to be recognized in the legislature.
Besides the Communists, Gamsakhurdia's most vocal opponent has been Giorgi Chanturia, the young leader of the National Democratic Party. Chanturia refused to take part in the elections, calling them "merely an extension of Soviet power." Instead, he set up a "shadow parliament," the 200-seat Georgian National Congress, as a more radical means of gaining independence from Moscow.
For months, Gamsakhurdia and Chanturia have exchanged accusations. Each man claims the other is a KGB agent, working in the interests of Moscow. Both men also claim to have arms caches. Last week, Chanturia was shot in the arm as he left a political rally and he immediately accused Gamsakhurdia of trying to assassinate him. Gamsakhurdia denied he had anything to do with the shooting.
Unlike the Baltic states, where election campaigns have been studies in calm, the races in Georgia have had a chaotic, dangerous feel. Chanturia arrived at his headquarters one day last month to find that someone -- he was "convinced" it was Gamsakhurdia -- had broken in, shot holes in the windows and ceilings and burned much of the furniture.
Last month, Gamsakhurdia's "team" broke into the local KGB headquarters, stealing files and destroying equipment. He said that he had occupied the building because "it was sabotaging our campaign and it represents all that is evil in the history of Georgia."
Some liberal intellectuals in Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, such as filmmaker Tengiz Abuladze, said they have grown so fearful of the threat of violence that they could not vote for either Gamsakhurdia or Chanturia. The Communist Party, led by Givi Gumbaridze, tried to capitalize on such fears, saying the party would be the "party of stability" and fight for the sovereignty, if not independence, of Georgia.
But the legacy of Communist rule in Georgia, coupled with an incident last year in which Soviet army troops killed 19 people who were part of a peaceful demonstration, made a Communist victory impossible.
Gamsakhurdia accused the Communist Party of trying to frighten non-Georgian ethnic groups into voting against the non-Communists. Non-Georgians, including many Abkhazians, are fearful that Georgian independence would make them even more isolated and powerless than they have been under Communist rule.