Georgia elects Salome Zurabishvili as first female president

Published: November 29, 2018 11:33:03 | Updated: November 30, 2018 17:43:42

Salome Zurabishvili, presidential candidate supported by the governing Georgian Dream Party, gives a thumbs up as she attends the final pre-election rally in Tbilisi, Georgia October 25, 2018 - Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili

Salome Zurabishvili has won Georgia's presidential election, becoming the first woman to hold the office.

With nearly all votes counted, the French-born ex-diplomat had 59 per cent of the vote with rival Grigol Vashadze on 40 per cent.

Zurabishvili was backed by the ruling Georgian Dream party while Vashadze was a united opposition candidate.

A new constitution is due to come into force, making the role of president largely ceremonial.

Zurabishvili favours balancing Georgia's relations with Russia and the West.

Vashadze - who was foreign minister during the 2008 conflict between Georgia and Russia - was seen as more pro-Western.

The runoff vote was the last time a president will be directly elected in Georgia, which is switching to parliamentary governance following constitutional reforms adopted last year, despite opposition protests.

However the election is also seen as an indicator of how parliamentary elections in 2020 could go, reports the BBC.

Western countries are also watching the vote in a country seeking European Union and NATO membership.

The opposition has complained of voting irregularities and attacks on its campaigners, but this has been denied by the ruling party.

International observers said the first round of voting last month was held on an "unlevel playing field".

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