Tue, Oct 30, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Georgia presidential poll result requires second-round runoff

Reuters, TBILISI

The Georgian presidential election is to go to a second-round runoff between two of Gerogia’s former ministers of foreign affairs, after no single candidate won outright in the first round of voting, the country’s Central Election Commission (CEC) said yesterday.

After all the votes from Sunday’s first round of voting had been counted, French-born former diplomat and foreign minister Salome Zurabishvili had secured 38.7 percent of the vote, while Grigol Vashadze, also a former foreign minister, had won 37.7 percent of the vote, the CEC said.

With neither managing to get more than 50 percent of the vote, as required to win outright, a runoff between Zurabishvili and Vashadze is to be held sometime between now and Dec. 2.

Constitutional changes have weakened the power of the presidency, handing most authority to the office of prime minister, but the post is still seen as important for the image abroad of a country that is strongly oriented toward the West and fearful of Russia, which fought a short war against Georgia a decade ago, after which it recognized the independence of two breakaway Georgian regions.

The country of 3.7 million people is Washington’s strategic ally in the Caucasus region. It also hopes to eventually join the EU and NATO. Pipelines carrying Caspian oil and gas to Europe run across its territory.

CEC head Tamar Zhvania said that there were some irregularities, but no serious violations had taken place during the election.

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.

Opposition parties complained about alleged pressure on voters from government officials, reported attempts to bribe voters and irregularities during vote counting.

Zurabishvili, 66, a former French career diplomat, was born to Georgian emigre parents in France and served as French ambassador to Georgia before becoming Georgia’s foreign minister in 2004.

Supporters say she would bring international stature to the presidency, while opponents criticize her for statements that appeared to blame Georgia for war with Russia in 2008 and remarks about minorities that some saw as xenophobic.

Her rival Vashadze, 60, a diplomat and businessman, served as Georgia’s foreign minister from 2008 to 2012.

Losing candidate David Bakradze, a former parliamentary speaker, said he would support Vashadze in the runoff.

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