Georgians set to vote in hotly contested presidential runoff

Georgians set to vote in hotly contested presidential runoff
Richmond County Board of Elections Assistant Director Travis Doss tests voting machines Monday, Nov. 26, 2018 in Augusta, Ga., as he prepares for advance voting in the upcoming runoff election. (Michael Holahan/The Augusta Chronicle via AP)

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Two of Georgia’s former foreign ministers are facing off against each other in what looks like being a close presidential runoff.

The country is transitioning to a parliamentary republic and presidential powers have been substantially reduced, but Wednesday’s election is seen as a crucial test for the ruling Georgian Dream party.

The party is led by funded by controversial billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made his fortune in Russia. It has dominated the nation’s political scene since defeating former president Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement in 2012.

In the runoff, Salome Zurabishvili is backed by the Georgian Dream and Grigol Vashadze is supported by a coalition that includes the United National Movement. They won 39 and 38 percent respectively in the first round last month.