This blog is now closed for today.
It is 20.00 in Tbilisi (16.00 GMT)
Voting has closed in elections held in Georgia on Sunday, 28 October to choose a new president. 25 candidates contested the election, with over three million voters eligible to vote.
Voting proceeded largely peacefully and briskly throughout the day. Turnout appeared to be similar to that in presidential elections in 2013, but 3-4 % lower than in parliamentary elections in 2016.
A large number of international and local observers monitored the election process. Throughout the day there were reports of some violations, largely of a procedural nature, with a few more serious incidents, although they appeared to be isolated.
Counting is likely to go on through the night.
An election winner needs to secure 50% of the votes cast in the first round. If not the person getting the highest number of votes and the runner up will have to go to a run-off, which needs to take place before 1 December.
15.15 GMT / 19.15 Tbilisi
Over the last hour there have been passionate appeals by politicians - both pro government and pro opposition, for voters who have not yet cast their vote to do so, saying that every vote is crucial. Do they know something we don't?
15.00 GMT / 19.00 Tbilisi
A prominent Georgian NGO, The Georgian Young Lawyers Association has issued a statement a few minutes ago listing its observations of the poll. It raises a number of issues which it says have been documented by its observers.
An issue that is emerging is related to so called voter mobilisation, and the extent political parties can or cannot mobilise their supporters to go and vote, there seem to be different opinions on this - with some NGOs saying this is not permissable, whilst some politicians argue this is absolutely legitimate.
14.45 GMT /1845 Tbilisi
More figures from the CEC regarding voter turnout. As of 17.00 Tbilisi time turnout was 38.16 %. Turnout in the 2016 parliamentary elections at the same time was 42.05%. This means that the same trend observed since this morning of a turnout between 3-4 % lower than in the parliamentary elections continues. In Tbilisi turnout is reported to be 36.2%
14.05 GMT / 18.05 Tbilsi
Georgian media outlets continue to report incidents of low intensity electoral violations. What is very worrying is that a lot of the violations appear to be in areas compactly inhabited by national minorities. Commonspace.eu political editor comments on this:
"Higher than average election violations in areas compactly inhabited by national minorities has been a feature of Georgian politics for the last three decades, and it is a shame that this remains the case. None of the main political forces in Georgia can claim the moral high ground on this since at one time or the other, all of them have succumbed to the temptation of doing in areas where the population is more vulnerable, what they would not do in Tbilisi. It is also unfortunate that the international community has never taken this issue seriously enough, not putting enough resources in ensuring particularly strict monitoring of these areas. The extent to which this issue is a problem in this election is not yet clear but we hope to hear from international observers on this issue in particular in their findings."
14.00 GMT / 18.00 Tbilisi
We have an update on the man who lives on the other side of the Russian constructed fence in the South Ossetian conflict zone, and who earlier could not get through to vote. Interpress news named the man as eighty five year old David Vanishvili. It says that despite being warned by the de facto authroties in South Ossetia not to try to go and vote, this morning he managed to get across the fence and voted. Happy ending, for the moment at least
12.45 GMT / 16.45 Tbilisi
Georgian Public Broadcaster has now given the turnout figures until 15.00 (Tbilisi time) and says that 30.98% voted. Again this shows a slighly lower figure for the same time in the 2016 parliamentary elections when turnout at 15.00 was 34.79%. the broadcaster 1 TV is saying that the figure for tunout by 15.00 in the 2013 presidential election was 32.1 %
12.00 GMT / 16.00 Tbilisi
We are now waiting for the next set of numbers on voters turnout from the CEC, but in the meantime we asked our political editor what are the possible scenarios from today's vote:
Opinion polls, imperfect as they are, have consistently shown Salome Zurabishvili as front runner in this election. The election is likely to confirm that. The big question has always been if she can win in the frirst round. That is still unclear. If you asked me two weeks ago i would have said no, but in the last few days the direct intervetion of Bidzina Ivanishvili in support of Zurabishvili's candidature has changed the dynamic somehow. Ivanishvili is a controversial figure for some, but for many Georgians he is still a trusted person, and his word counts. Whether or not she goes for a second round is not so important, but if her vote is low - say 30 or 35 % this may mean that Georgian Dream has a much bigger problem. She is still likely to win in a second round, but it will depend on who will be the runner-up. A controversial candidate may not be able to unite all the opposition around him.
11.30 GMT / 15.30 Tbilisi
A little more excitement than necessary during polling day, a 4.2 magnitude earthquake was reported today in Georgia. According to the Institute of Earth Sciences and the National Center for Seismic Monitoring it occured at 13.03 Tbilisi time
11.15 GMT / 15.15 Tbilisi
A powerful reminder of some of the real challenges facing Georgia. Whilst Georgians exercise their democratic right to vote, a villager whose house has been cut off from Georgia by the artificial fence built by Russia in the South Ossetia conflict zone, is not allowed to cross to cast his vote.
10.45 GMT / 14.45 Tbilisi
This election campaign, ahead of today's election, has been described as having been one of the nastiest in Georgia's electoral history. We asked commonspace.eu political editor why this was the case? "Actually it has nothing to do with the candidates themselves. The leading contenders in the election are rather pleasant people. But some of the political machines behind them may have decided that personal attacks suited their purpose best. One needs to keep in mind that the major political forces in Georgia are seeing this election as a dress rehearsal for the much more important parliamentary elections, due in 2020 but possibly even before. Today's vote is a test of public opinion. Once the dust of the campaign settles it is important that Georgian politicians take a step back. Politics must be brought back to issues or else people will become increasingly disillusioned by the political process and this is not good for the country at all".
10.30 GMT / 14.30 Tbilisi
The pro opposition TV station Rustavi 2 is showing images of what it says is proof of carousel voting in Akhaltsikhe District.
09.15 GMT / 13.15 Tbilisi
We now have the figures for voting up to mid-day issued by the CEC. Turnout is reported to be 15.95%. In the 2016 parliamentary elections turnout was slightly higher at around 19% by mid-day. However a 3% variation is not considered so significant. Ofcourse there are still many hours of voting to go yet so all this can change easily.
Based on what our own correspondents in Georgia are telling us, and what is being reported by a number of media outlets, the situation around the Georgian presidential election after more than four hours of voting, is that polling is brisk throughout the country, and largely being conducted in a calm and peaceful atmosphere. Opposition parties however are accusing the government of using administrative resources to mobilise its supporters, and there are unconfirmed reports of carousel voting. It is not clear if these are isolated incidents or widespread. Rustavi 2 TV, ostensibly the most vocal critic of the Georgian Dream government is saying that the irregularities are on a massive scale, but many of the NGOs monitoring the process, whilst also reporting some incidents are so far being much more cautious.
0830 GMT / 12.30 Tbilisi
We are waiting for the figures from Georgia's Central Elections Commission regarding voter turnout at midday. This is usually a good indicator as to whether the voter turnout is going to be high or low. So far we have the figures for voting at 10.00 am. The CEC says that voter turnout at this point was 6.15%. This is slightly lower compared with the 2016 parliamentary elections when voter turnout at 1000 am was 8%, but these figures do not on their own constitute a trend, so we have to wait a bit more to see the midday figures where a pattern can start emerging
07.00 GMT / 11.00 Tbilisi
The four leading contenders for the post of president of Georgia are all experienced politicians: two were former Chairman of Parliament - David Bakradze during the government of the National Movement and David Usupashvili in the first term of the Georgian Dream government. Both have broken with their former political alliances and have contested the election offering a middle of the road alternative to the GD/UNM options
Salome Zurabishvili and Grigol Vashadze both served as Foreign Ministers under Mikheil Saakashvili, but Zurabishvili broke with Saakashvili soon after the death of prime minister Zurab Zhvania, and became a vocal opponent. She was elected in the last parliamentary elections as an independent candidate. She has been endorsed by the ruling GD party. Vashadze is the candidate of the UNM.
The four front runners all support Georgia's continued close relations with the EU and NATO.
The other 21 candidates are a mixed bag of have beens and novices who are unlikely to make a major impact, but among them are Zurab Japaridze leader of the alternative "Girchi " Movement and the evergreen leader of the Labour Party, Shalva Natelashvili, who has contested every election in Georgia for the last two decades, but despite never winning has a loyal core support.
Apart from the front-runner in the election, Salome Zurabishvili, there is one other women contesting the election who is pretty much unknown. She is Tamar Tskhoragauli who has been nominated by a group which claims links with Georgia's first president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia.
06.30 GMT / 10.30 Tbilisi Time
Many Georgian political, religious and civic leaders have already cast their vote in today's presidential elections.
Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgi, Ilya II, arrived at Krtsanisi Polling Station to vote before going to the cathedral of the Holy Trinity where he is to celebrate Sunday Liturgy.
Among those who have already voted are incumbent president Giorgi Marghvelashvili and Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze
Sunday, 28 October 05.30 GMT/09.30 Tbilisi time
Georgians are voting on Sunday to elect a new president. 25 candidates are contesting for the largely ceremonial post after a campaign that has been largely peaceful, but marred with bitter verbal attacks against some of the candidates. The new president will serve for a six year term, after which, according to new constitutional provisions, the president will not be elected by popular vote but by parliament.
3 518 877 Goergians are eleigible to vote in the elections. Voters can vote in 3 703 electoral precincts, including 55 precincts abroad and 11 precincts established in extraordinary locations.
Commonspace.eu political editor said in a comment that most Georgians have been left unimpressed by a campaign that will be more remembered for its nastiness than for the political programmes of its contestants. The personal attacks against the leading candidates have been nasty, and the bitterness of the campaign took many observers by surprise. In the end the election is being fought largely on party lines, with the front-runner, Salome Zurabishvili being supported by the ruling Georgian Dream Party (GD), whilst the two main opposition parties, the United National Movement (UNM) and the party that splintered out of it, European Georgia, supporting Grigol Vashadze and David Bakradze respectively. A fourth candidate, David Usupashvili, has conducted a serious campaign, but is considered unlikely to finish in the first two positions. Numbers will play a crucial role in the outcome of the elections. For a candidate to win in the first round he or she must secure at least 50% of the vote. On the otherhand turnout will also say a lot on the current state of Georgian politics. More than anything else Georgia needs an election that is considered free and fair by the international community. A large number of international observers are in the country, and their reports will be looked at carefiully, not least in Brussels and Washington.
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