Former French diplomat wins Georgia presidential election

Independent presidential candidate Salome Zurabishvil (C) celebrates after the announcement of the exit polls following the presidential election in Tbilisi, Georgia, 28 November 2018. [Stringer/EPA/EFE]

Results from Georgia’s presidential runoff showed the ruling party-backed candidate, who favours balancing the ex-Soviet republic’s relations with Moscow and the West, defeating her rival who advocates a stronger pro-Western line.

Figures from the Central Election Commission gave French-born Salome Zurabishvili 59.6% of the vote in the runoff, which was held on Wednesday (28 November). Opposition candidate Grigol Vashadze had 40.4%, based on results from almost all polling stations, the CEC said on its website.

Rival diplomats to dispute second round of Georgia presidential election

Ex-French diplomat Salome Zurabishvili has taken a slight lead in Georgia’s presidential election, seen as a crucial test for the increasingly unpopular ruling party, results showed on Monday (29 October).

Earlier, two exit polls also showed Zurabishvili, a former French career diplomat who served as Georgia’s foreign minister from 2004-2005, with a clear lead.

The second round of voting was under close scrutiny by opposition and international observers for any sign that the ruling Georgian Dream party is using its control of state machinery to help Zurabishvili win.

The opposition said there have been attacks on its activists during campaigning and complained there were many irregularities during the vote, including attempts to pressure voters and manipulation of voter lists.

The ruling party has denied attempting to influence the outcome of the vote unfairly.

International observers said the first round of voting last month had been competitive, but had been held on “an unlevel playing field” with state resources misused, private media biased, and some phoney candidates taking part.

Vashadze, who was foreign minister in 2008-2012, had been expected to use the presidency’s limited powers to send a vocal message of integration with the US-led NATO alliance and the European Union – sensitive issues in the South Caucasus country that fought a war in 2008 with its neighbour Russia.

Georgian Dream and Zurabishvili take a more pragmatic line, balancing the country’s aspirations to move closer to the West with a desire to avoid antagonising the Kremlin.

Constitutional changes have reduced the authority of the president and put most levers of power in the hands of the prime minister, a Georgian Dream loyalist.

International observers said the first round of voting last month had been competitive, but had been held on “an unlevel playing field” with state resources misused, private media biased, and some phoney candidates taking part.

Vashadze, who was foreign minister in 2008-2012, had been expected to use the presidency’s limited powers to send a vocal message of integration with the US-led NATO alliance and the European Union – sensitive issues in the South Caucasus country that fought a war in 2008 with its neighbour Russia.

Georgian Dream and Zurabishvili take a more pragmatic line, balancing the country’s aspirations to move closer to the West with a desire to avoid antagonising the Kremlin.

Constitutional changes have reduced the authority of the president and put most levers of power in the hands of the prime minister, a Georgian Dream loyalist.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe

Want to know what's going on in the EU Capitals daily? Subscribe now to our new 9am newsletter.