New opinion polls have been released as Georgia prepares to elect a new president in Sunday’s elections.
Incumbent Mikheil Saakashvili will have served ten years as president of the former Soviet Republic. He will stand down following the poll, as required after two terms in office.
Georgy Margvelashvili, a confidant of prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, is currently ahead in the polls, with 39 percent of voters likely to vote for him.
Both he and Ivanishvili represent the ruling Georgian Dream party. A win for Margvelashvili on Sunday would usually lead to a stronger grip on power for their party. However, Ivanishvili has indicated that he will step down as prime minister following the vote.
Margvelashvili’s main foreign policy goal is to pursue close ties with both the West and with Russia:
“Our integration into Europe and Euro-Atlantic structures is (the) overall goal of our national foreign policy,” he said.
“At the same time we were pretty effective in showing (the) possibility of decreasing (the) temperature with Russia.”
United National Movement candidate and former Parliament speaker David Bakradze stands at second in the polls, looking likely to receive around 18 percent of the votes.
Opposition leader Nino Burjanadze so far has less than ten percent in the pre-election polls. She helped to lead the Rose Revolution which brought Saakashvili to power. They have since fallen out over his handling of the 2008 war with Russia, and she is demanding an inquiry into his activity.
“All activity of Mr. (Mikheil) Saakashvili should be investigated, including (the) August 2008 (war), including this torture in the jails, including this pressure and intimidation concerning political opponents,” she said.
Following Sunday’s elections, Georgia will undergo a constitutional reform to become a parliamentary state, meaning the new president will have less power than his predecessors.