Georgia: Voters cast final ballots for president

By Davit Kachkachishvili

TBILISI, Georgia (AA) – Georgians on Sunday are holding the last popular election for the nation’s president, with lawmakers set to choose the leader from now on, heralding a shift from a presidential to a parliamentary system of government in 2023.

Under constitutional changes approved last year, the presidential post will be more symbolic than powerful.

Voting began at 8 a.m. local time (0400GMT) and lasts through 8 p.m. (1600GMT), followed by the counting of ballots under the supervision of 125 local and international organizations.

Casting his vote in the capital Tbilisi, President Giorgi Margvelashvili — who is not seeking reelection — said he had voted for a candidate who would be "everybody's president".

According to pre-election polls, former foreign ministers Salome Zurabishvili and Grigol Vashadze and former parliament head Davit Bakradze are likely to be the top candidates.

Polls point to a second election round two weeks from now between the top two candidates, as Georgian law requires if no candidate gets half the vote in the initial ballot.

In Georgia, presidential elections are held every five years with a limit of two consecutive terms for a single candidate.