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TBILISI, October 27 (Itar-Tass) - Georgian citizens will elect the fourth president in the history of the country on Sunday. The voting at 3,700 polling stations in the republic will begin at 08:00 local time (coincides with Moscow time, 04:00 GMT) and will end at 20:00 local time (16:00 GMT) on Sunday.
According to the republican Central Elections Commission (CEC), 3.5 million people can participate in the voting on the territory of Georgia. 48,500 more people, who live or stay abroad, have the right to vote at 52 polling stations opened in other countries. The early voting was held at two polling stations in Afghanistan on October 20 due to the specifics of the service of peacekeepers.
“According to the country’s election code, presidential elections can be declared valid regardless the number of voters, who will participate in the voting,” the Georgian Central Elections Commission told Itar-Tass on Saturday. The winner should gain more than 50 percent of votes. The CEC is to make public the final election results no later than in 20 days after the elections. If no candidate polls more than 50 percent of votes in the first round of elections, a runoff will be held within two weeks after the CEC announces the final election results.
The current elections are a landmark event in the history of the country. After the inauguration of a Georgian president-elect the country will actually become a parliamentary republic, because a new reading of the Constitution will be enacted after the legislative assembly approved it in 2010. According to the Constitution the rights and powers of the president are limited, those of parliament and the prime minister are getting broader. But the president, who is elected for five years, still remains the head of state, it is no surprise that a record number of candidates in the history the country are running for president, particularly 23 presidential candidates on ballot papers, but in fact 21 candidates, as two candidates dropped from the presidential race at the last moment, but this fact was not processed in legal form.
Most observers believe that the forerunners are candidate from the ruling party Georgian Dream Georgy Margvelashvili, former parliamentary speaker Nino Burdzhanadze (from the public and political forum All People’s Assembly of Georgia) and candidate from the former ruling party Common National Movement David Bakradze. The relations with Russia are prioritized in their programmes. Despite different approaches, most politicians and voters understand that from this factor depends the resolution of “main problems of the country - from the provision of conditions for peaceful reunification of Georgia to socio-economic issues.
The election campaign “passed in a quite calmer situation” this year than before, CEC chairperson Tamar Zhvania stated repeatedly in the last few days. A large majority of local and foreign politicians and experts also adhere to the same opinion, noting that “the calm situation on the eve of the elections is the result of the fact that after parliamentary elections on October 1, 2012, terror and violence, which had been reigning in Georgia against political opponents, public figures and business people in the last nine years, ended.”
As many as 19,700 observers from 60 local organizations and 1,200 observers from 65 foreign organizations that is a record high figure in the history of the country will be monitoring the elections. The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE ODIHR), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the European Parliament will be monitoring the elections. The promos of candidates on the television and radio, people wearing the clothes with the symbols of candidates at the polling stations and adjacent areas, the announcement of the recent public opinion polls before 20:00 local time are banned on the election day.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili urged people “to participate actively in the election of the fourth president.” “Georgia has prepared peacefully for the elections, this is already the victory of the country. For the first time in more than 20 years we have an opportunity to change the president through general elections and influence the course that the country will take,” he noted.
First Georgian President became Zviad Gamsakhurdia, who has occupied this post for less than a year and already on January 6, 2012 he fled the country after an armed confrontation between his supporters and opponents. Eduard Shevardnadze became the second president in the country and was elected at the post twice in 1995 and 2000. On November 23, 2003, after many days of protest actions he resigned. Mikhail Saakashvili became the third president. He won at the early presidential elections in January 2004, but he did not wait for the expiry of his presidential term, and shortly after the breakup of an opposition rally on November 7, 2007 amid the protests of Georgian residents and international public he filed resignation and announced elections in January 2008, at which he has won again.