Salome Zurabishvili, former Georgian Foreign minister and presidential candidate, speaks to the media at her campaign headquarter in Tbilisi, Georgia, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. the French-born former foreign minister of Georgia Zurabishvili celebrated what she claims is her victory in a tight presidential runoff Wednesday that marks the last time Georgians elect their head of state by popular vote. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

French-born diplomat wins presidency in ex-Soviet Georgia

November 29, 2018 - 2:20 am

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Georgian election officials say a French-born former foreign minister has won a presidential runoff, marking the last time citizens of the ex-Soviet nation elected their head of state by popular vote.

The Central Election Commission said Thursday that with 99.9 percent of precincts counted, Salome Zurabishvili has won nearly 60 percent of the vote, while her rival, Grigol Vashadze, polled just over 40 percent in Wednesday' ballot.

Zurabishvili ran as an independent, but backed by the ruling Georgian Dream party. Vashadze was supported by a coalition of opposition forces.

Georgia, a country with 4 million people in the volatile Caucasus region, is transitioning to a parliamentary republic. Presidential powers have been substantially reduced and after the new president's six-year term ends, future heads of state will be chosen by delegates.

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