Ex-foreign ministers contest Georgian presidency

Photo: EPA Salome Zurabishvili (L) casts her ballot at a polling station in Tbilisi, 28 October.

Georgia's presidential election, held on Sunday, will go to a runoff after no single candidate won outright in the first round of voting, news wires reported. According the country's Central Election Commission (CEC), the French-born former diplomat Salome Zurabishvili had secured 38.7% of the vote, while Grigol Vashadze, a former foreign minister, had won 37.7%.

Zurabishvili was backed by the ruling Georgian Dream Party, while Vashadze was running on behalf of a new platform of 11 opposition parties led by former president Mikheil Saakashvili's United National Movement (UNM).The second round of voting will occur no later than December 2. Candidate Davit Bakradze, former parliamentary speaker who trailed the frontrunners, said he would support Vashadze in the second round.

Zurabishvili, 66, was born to Georgian parents, emigrated in France and served as French ambassador to Georgia before becoming Georgia's foreign minister. Supporters say she would bring international stature to the presidency; opponents criticise her for statements that appeared to blame Georgia for the war with Russia in 2008, remarks about minorities that some saw as xenophobic and unsteady command of the Georgian language, which she speaks with an accent.

Sunday's election was the last in which the president will be selected by popular vote. After that, presidents will be picked by an electoral college of 300 lawmakers and regional officials.


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