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Georgia elects first female president

Salome Zurabishvili, a French-born former foreign minister, has been elected Georgia’s first female president.

Mrs Zurabishvili comfortably beat rival Grigol Vashadze, taking almost 60 per cent of the vote.

Ms Zurabishvili was backed by the ruling Georgian Dream party while Mr Vashadze was a united opposition candidate.

Mrs Zurabishvili claimed victory immediately after exit polls suggested she had won the election, thanking voters for making the “right and principled choice.”

“We have finally and firmly rejected our past today,” she said. “Our choice is a peaceful Georgia, a free country, where citizens have equal rights.”

International observers have said that while the vote was competitive, one side was clearly favoured.

Margareta Cederfelt, head of the international monitoring delegation from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, said the Georgian people “once again expressed their commitment to democracy by actively participating in the electoral process.”

“Regrettably, the increased use of harsh rhetoric in the campaign between the two rounds contributed to a rise in tension in the electoral environment,” she added.

The election monitoring mission was jointly undertaken by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the European Parliament, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Disgraced former president Mikheil Saakashvili, who backed Mr Vashadze, said the election was “a fraud” and called for Georgians to take to the streets in protest in order to “defend democracy.”