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article imageRuling party candidate leads in Georgia presidential vote: exit poll

By AFP     Nov 28, 2018 in World

Ruling party candidate Salome Zurabishvili was in the lead after voting closed Wednesday in a hotly contested Georgian presidential election, an exit poll showed.

Zurabishvili, a former French diplomat, took 55 percent of the vote in the second round of the election, against 45 percent for opposition candidate Grigol Vashadze, according to an exit poll by US firm Edison Research.

The new head of state will be a largely ceremonial figure, but the vote is seen as a trial run for the contest between businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili's ruling Georgian Dream party and the opposition in more important parliamentary polls set for 2020.

Western powers are also closely watching the vote -- a test for the democratic credentials of the Caucasus nation that seeks EU and NATO membership.

The vote is Georgia's last direct leadership poll as it transitions to a parliamentary form of governance following a contested constitutional reform.

The inauguration of a new president will pave the way for the new constitution to come into force, making the head of state a largely ceremonial figure.

The constitutional change was adopted in September 2017, despite opposition party protests.

Early results are expected to start being released overnight.

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