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EU Leaders Congratulate Zurabishvili, Warn Against Polarization In Georgia


Salome Zurabishvili has been declared the winner of Georgia's presidential election
Salome Zurabishvili has been declared the winner of Georgia's presidential election

Senior European Union leaders have reportedly congratulated Salome Zurabishvili on her election as Georgian president and urged to her to combat "political polarization" in the South Caucasus country.

In a letter dated November 30, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU is looking forward to "working together to continue the consolidation of Georgia's democratic institutions" and to advance political and economic ties.

Zurabishvili, who was supported by the ruling Georgian Dream party, defeated opposition candidate Grigol Vashadze by receiving 59.5 percent of the vote in the November 28 runoff, according to electoral officials.

Vashadze -- the candidate of opposition groups led by the United National Movement, which was founded by former President Mikheil Saakashvili -- has rejected the results and called for a peaceful protest in Tbilisi on December 2.

He has also called for snap parliamentary elections. "These were hard fought elections and your leadership in overcoming political polarization will be of paramount importance," Tusk and Juncker wrote, according to the text of the letter published by the news outlet

They also wrote that the EU "remains fully committed to Georgia's territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders."

The United States also congratulated Zurabishvili and said Washington would continue to support Tbilisi.

"The U.S. will continue to support strongly Georgia's democratic and economic development, territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, and Western integration and will continue to work with Georgia in the area of electoral and democratic reform," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement issued on November 30.

Russia backs separatists who control two regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and Moscow recognized them as independent states after a five-day war against Tbilisi in 2008.

Only a handful of countries have followed suit. A day after the runoff, international monitors said that the election was "competitive" but the ruling party-backed candidate "enjoyed an undue advantage."

Constitutional changes have made the president less powerful than the prime minister in Georgia, and billionaire Georgian Dream founder Bidzina Ivanishvili wields strong influence.

This election was the last direct presidential vote before a new system of indirect voting takes effect.

Future presidents are to be elected by a 300-member College of Electors comprising parliament deputies and local and regional political representatives.

With reporting by
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