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Newsline: Former French ambassador elected as president of Georgia

Salome Zurabishvili, a former French diplomat born to Georgian immigrants in Paris, won with the backing of Georgia’s ruling party in a second-round presidential vote on Wednesday. Zurabishvili, 66, was running as an independent candidate for the largely ceremonial position, but has the backing of the ruling Georgian Dream party. The election is seen as a test for the increasingly unpopular party, which is run by billionaire oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili. Zurabishvili was born in Paris to a family that fled Georgia for political reasons in 1921. She studied at the prestigious Paris Institute of Political Studies and at Columbia University in New York before leading a successful career at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which culminated in an appointment as ambassador to Georgia in 2003. In 2004, then-president Saakashvili granted her Georgian citizenship with the endorsement of French President Jacques Chirac, and she became Georgia’s foreign minister. A previous bid to seek the presidency in 2013 was disqualified, due to her holding dual French and Georgian citizenship. She announced in August that France had terminated her French citizenship at her request, so she could submit her candidacy for the 2018 poll. “The decision was not simple, but it was necessary,” Zurabishvili said at that time. “The President of Georgia cannot simultaneously be a citizen of another country.”


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