Georgia elects anti-Saakashvili as president

 Georgia elects anti-Saakashvili as president

The Georgian Dream ruling party endorsed presidential candidate Salome Zurabishvili has won in the second round of presidential elections in Georgia with 59.56% after 99.7% of votes were counted, the country's Central Election Commission (CEC) said.

Another presidential candidate from the United National Movement Grigol Vashadze received 40.44% of votes.

According to Georgia's CEC, 1,146,063 people voted for Zurabishvili, and 778,167 people - for Vashadze. The voter turnout was 56.23%.

Earlier, Imedi TV and opposition-minded Rustavi 2 private broadcasters have released the outcomes of exit polls, both saying that  Zurabishvili has won the elections.

Zurabishvili thanked voters for support. Her inauguration ceremony will be held on December 16.

As of 11:00 (MSK), the commission said that 100% of votes have been counted. According to the final results of the presidential elections, Zurabishvili received 59.52% of votes (1,147,627 votes), while Vashadze - 40.48% of votes (780,633).

Political scientist Gela Vasadze, speaking to Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that voting in the last presidential election was, in fact, of protesting nature, which affected the high support for the opposition candidate Grigol Vashadze, who gained more than 40% of the vote. "Salome Zurabishvili was independent candidate only formally, in fact she was a candidate from the ruling party. Her election posters did not even have her photo, but had photographs of the country's top officials. If not for the massive support from the authorities, Vashadze would have won the elections, because people are very tired of the Georgian Dream. The traditional cycle of political forces in power in Georgia ends - it was the case with Shevardnadze, it was the case with Saakashvili, now it is the case with Ivanishvili - which has affected the elections," he pointed out.

"In such conditions, it’s not surprising that Vashadze collected so many votes, but he didn’t win, because the opposition made several mistakes. First, it’s impossible to win with the help of a TV alone. As a result, they didn’t have enough electoral assets. Second, the authorities cut off the opposition’s financial flows, used administrative resources and bribing voters to the maximum," Gela Vasadze said.

"Ultimately, Salome Zurabishvili's victory means for Georgia that the Georgian Dream will retain power for another two years. We must understand that the presidential post in Georgia is of purely symbolic nature, and yesterday’s election was in fact a referendum of trust in the authorities. With great difficulty, the authorities managed to win at this referendum. If Vashadze had become president, it would have created great problems for the Georgian Dream, because the president still negotiates with top officials of other states and is able to spoil the international image of the Georgian authorities. In addition, Vashadze would have demanded holding early parliamentary elections with high probability," the analyst stressed.

A member of the ‘Expert Club of Georgia’ Vakhtang Maisaya, in turn, described the last presidential election as a quiet protest against the Georgian Dream. "That is, the people decided to contribute to the UNM victory in this non-essential election to stimulate the Georgian Dream to correct their mistakes and win the parliamentary elections. It was about the lesser of two evils - the Georgian president's rights and duties are very limited under the new Constitution, and a number of voters thought that if the president decides nothing, it will be safe to protest against the current policy of the authorities by voting in favor of Vashadze," he explained.

"Now the people expect that the Georgian Dream, having received this signal from the population, will finally begin to fulfill its promises in order to enjoy the support of the majority of citizens in 2020. Such quiet protesting voters were about 30-35% of all who cast votes for Vashadze. Many of those who voted for Vashadze are opponents of the United National Movement, and this is the paradox of the last presidential elections in Georgia," Vakhtang Maisaya added.

"Salome Zarubishvili's victory for Georgia means victory over totalitarianism, when Georgia was under Saakashvili's rule. Second, Zurabishvili's victory means continuation of stability. Third, and the most important, it means the continuation of foreign policy, that is, the desire to enter the EU and NATO, as well as an attempt to establish normal relations with Russia," the analyst concluded.