georgias ruling partybacked candidate poised to win presidency
Last Updated : GMT 05:21:58
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Last Updated : GMT 05:21:58
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Georgia's ruling party-backed candidate poised to win presidency

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Arab Today, arab today Georgia's ruling party-backed candidate poised to win presidency

Pro-government presidential candidate Salome Zurabishvili
Tbilisi - DPA

Exit polls suggest that Georgia's ruling party-backed candidate, Salome Zurabishvili, has won the presidential election in the former Soviet republic, state media reported on Wednesday.

Zurabishvili was supported by the Georgian Dream party, which has dominated politics over the past five years as it strives to develop ties with both Russia and the European Union.

"My choice is peaceful, united, calm and smiling Georgia," Zurabishvili said after casting her vote in Tbilisi, according to comments carried by Georgia's First Channel.

Her opponent, Grigol Vashadze, was a close runner-up in the first round of voting last month.

His opposition coalition, Strength Is in Unity, leans away from ties with neighbouring Russia - a contentious issue in the election.

Both candidates previously served as foreign ministers.

The vote marks the last time Georgians are set to directly elect the president, as the country converts to a parliamentary republic.

The next presidential election is to be conducted by an electoral college including parliament members.

The opposition coalition, based on the previously ruling United National Movement party, has staunchly supported integration with the EU and the Western military alliance NATO.

When the United National Movement was in power, Georgia fought a brief war against neighbouring Russia. Georgia lost in five days, ceding de-facto control over two regions on the Russian border.

Last weekend, tens of thousands of people protested in the capital, Tbilisi, against Vashadze, as he has promised to pardon former president Mikheil Saakashvili, whom many Georgians see as responsible for the war with Russia.

Organizers said that more than 90,000 people took part in the protest. Georgian authorities earlier this year convicted Saakashvili in absentia of abuse of office and sentenced him to six years. He currently lives in the Netherlands.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which independently observed the voting for last month's election, expressed overall praise for the country's electoral process.

"In this election, Georgia showed the maturity of its democracy. This further raises expectations," the leader of the OSCE's observer team, Kristian Vigenin, said in a statement.

As a shortcoming, the OSCE suggested that Zurabishvili had unfair access to support from the state.

In addition, the run-up was "dominated by polarizing topics, negative campaigning and harsh accusations between the ruling and one of the opposition parties," the statement added.

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