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Georgia’s presidential election enters runoff round on Wednesday


Georgia’s presidential election enters runoff round on Wednesday

Photo: REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili

Voters in Georgia will return to the polls today for a runoff presidential election between the ruling-party’s Salome Zurabishvili and the opposition’s Grigol Vashadze; the candidates took 43% and 35% of the first-round vote, respectively.

Zurabishvilli’s Georgian Dream Party is seeking a third term, having ruled since 2012. Vashadze’s United National Movement has campaigned on closer economic and political ties with the EU and NATO, including seeking membership with both organisations. In the highly polarised society that is within in Moscow’s geopolitical orbit, Vashadze’s supporters are largely pro-Russia and oppose closer relations with the West.

Zurabishvilli’s results in the first-round of voting mean she is likely to win the run-off, which requires her gaining over 50% of the vote. A failure to do so would trigger another ballot. Long term, a victory by Zurabishvilli is likely to see Georgia reaffirm its commitment to greater ties with the West. However, do not expect Moscow to easily surrender its long-standing influence over the country­­. The Kremlin it will continue to exert control over the breakaway Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, damping the prospects of NATO ascension.

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