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Georgians heading to polls to elect President
2018-11-28 12:34:01

Georgians are heading to polls today to elect President. Polls opened at 8 a.m. (0400 GMT) and are due to close at 8 p.m. (1600 GMT).

The tight runoff will mark the last time Georgians elect their head of state by popular vote. After the new president's six-year term ends, future heads of state will be chosen by delegates.

Polls opened at 8 a.m. (0400 GMT) and were due to close at 8 p.m. (1600 GMT).

None of the candidates managed to collect 50% plus one vote in the first round. Ruling-party backed candidate, ex-French ambassador Salome Zurabishvili, narrowly led with 38.64 percent of the vote, compared with 37.74 percent for opposition leader Grigol Vashadze.

Zurabishvili, 66 was born in France and served as French ambassador to Georgia until becoming Georgia's Foreign Minister in 2004. She was sacked the following year and some Georgians still look at her foreign background with suspicion and criticize her for her contention that Georgia started the 2008 war with Russia.

Vashadze, 60, who served as Georgia's foreign minister in 2008-2012, vowed to re-establish control South Ossetia and Abkhazia by peaceful means. He also vowed to pardon ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, who was stripped of his citizenship in 2015 and sentenced in absentia for abuse of power.

Observers see the vote as a key test before the parliamentary elections in 2020.