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Georgia heading for presidential runoff by early December

Voters lineup to get their ballots at a polling station during the presidential election at the polling station in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018 . Voters in Georgia are choosing a new president for the former Soviet republic, the last time the president will be elected by direct ballot. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Georgia is heading for a presidential runoff by early December after no candidate achieved the 50 percent of the vote to win the election on Sunday.

The Central Election Commission said Monday that preliminary results showed two former foreign ministers — Salome Zurabishvili and Grigol Vashadze — won 39 and 38 percent of the vote, respectively, in an election with 25 candidates.

A runoff between the two is expected to be held by Dec. 1 in what will be Georgia’s last presidential election. Constitutional changes kick in at the end of the next president’s term that will leave it to a delegate system to choose the president. The changes will make the prime minister the most powerful political figure in the country.

Zurabishvili served as Georgia’s foreign ministry for a little more than a year when she was sacked in 2005 amid disagreements with parliament. She is running as an independent but is backed by the powerful Georgian Dream party which dominates the parliament.

Vashadze has been backed by a coalition that includes the United National Movement that was founded by former president Mikheil Saakashvili who opposes the current government.

Election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation and Europe in their mission’s report released on Monday hailed the vote as “competitive and professionally administered.”

“Candidates were able to campaign freely and voters had a genuine choice, although there were instances of misuse of administrative resources, and senior state officials from the ruling party were involved in the campaign,” the report said.

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