Rival candidate cries foul as Georgia elects its first female president

An investigation is underway after the Opposition cried foul over the election of Georgia’s first woman president in Wednesday’s run-off vote.

Salome Zurabishvili, above, a former foreign minister and diplomat backed by the ruling Georgian Dream party, won the presidency with 59.6% votes while rival candidate Grigol Vashadze could win only 40.4% of votes.

Vashadze, supported by an alliance of 11 parties led by exiled former president Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement, alleged mass electoral fraud.

The Prosecutor General’s office has launched an investigation based on his complaint.

Hitting out at the Dream party’s founder, Bidzina Ivanishvili, the richest man of the Caucasus nation, Vashadze said the elections results prove the billionaire banker has stamped out democracy and the institutions that conduct elections.

Vashadze appealed to people to defend Georgia’s freedom, democracy and law and launch peaceful protests demanding snap parliamentary polls.

The opposition accused the government of rigging the election by indulging in unfair means including the printing of fake ID cards to create bogus votes. They alleged voters were intimidated and Vashadze’s campaigners were attacked by ruling party members.

Commenting on the election, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said in its preliminary report that “one side” enjoyed undue advantage. The negative character of the campaign by both political groups undermined the poll process, OSCE said.

Zurabishvili is the last president to be voted in by the electorate. The president will be picked by an electoral college from 2024.

The president is just a figurehead in Georgia as power is yielded by the ruling party led by the prime minister.

The latest election is seen as a semi-final before the final which is the parliamentary elections in 2020 when Dream party will face a host of opponents.

The election is significant for Georgia as the comments by OSCE and other poll observers on its conduct will factor as the country seeks entry into the European Union.

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