The polls have opened in Georgia as the country votes for a new president and prepares for constitutional changes. The ballot marks a shift in power from the presidency to the government and parliament.
It also brings to an end the decade-long rule of pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili who is ineligible to run for a third term. He is credited by many with bringing democracy to the country.
The front runner among the 23 candidates is Giorgi Margvelashvili. The forty-four-year old philosopher is a close ally and member of current Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream party.
The premier is set to stand down within weeks of the ballot saying he has achieved his aims. He called the election Georgia’s, “first European-style election”.
Some analysts suggest a run-off is possible with David Bakratze who represents the outgoing president’s United National Movement. Giorgi Margvelashvili who wants to pursue close ties with the West and Russia has said he will refuse to take part in one if he fails to win outright by securing more than half the votes.
Final results must be published no later than 16 November.