Two of Georgia’s former foreign ministers are facing off against each other Wednesday in a tight runoff that will mark the last time Georgians elect their head of state by popular vote. Georgia, a nation of nearly 4 million people in the volatile Caucasus region south of Russia, is transitioning to a parliamentary republic. Presidential powers have been substantially reduced with the prime minister becoming the most powerful figure in the country. After the new president’s six-year term ends, future heads of state will be chosen by delegates. …Though the election lacks the usual importance, it is seen as a crucial test for the ruling Georgian Dream party which is led and funded by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili who made his fortune in Russia.
It has dominated the nation’s political scene since defeating former president Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement in 2012. Ivanishvili briefly served as prime minister in 2012-2013 and has remained a prominent force in Georgian politics ever since.
In the runoff, Salome Zurabishvili is backed by Georgian Dream and Grigol Vashadze is supported by a coalition that includes the United National Movement. They won 39 and 38 percent respectively in the first round last month.
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.
Full Article: Georgians set to vote in hotly contested presidential runoff.