Mon, 21 Jan 2019
-6
Moscow

Salome Zurabishvili has been sworn into office as Georgia's first woman president, as the opposition continued to denounce her election as rigged.

In her inaugural speech on December 16, Zurabishvili vowed to reconcile political divisions and deepen ties with NATO and the European Union.

'As the Georgian president backed by our strategic partner, the United States, and European friends, I will make every effort to promote our country's integration process into NATO and the EU,' she said.

The inauguration ceremony was held at an 18th-century palace in the town of Telavi, about 100 kilometers east of the capital, Tbilisi.

More than 1,800 Georgian and foreign guests attended the event, including Armenian President Armen Sarkisian and French former President Nicolas Sarkozy.

A French-born former foreign minister of Georgia, the 66-year-old Zurabishvili won a November 28 runoff vote for the presidency with 59.5 percent of the vote. She was backed by the ruling Georgian Dream party.

Zurabishvili's rival in the runoff, Grigol Vashadze of the opposition United National Movement, received 40.5 percent of the vote.

But opposition parties have refused to accept the results, pointing to instances of alleged fraud in the runoff vote.

On December 16, opposition supporters tried to hold a demonstration in Telavi, but police blocked their convoy of cars and buses on a road leading from Tbilisi to the town.

Clashes were reported between police and protesters as they tried to break through police ranks.

'Georgian Dream has taken away our constitution, our state institutions, our freedom of expression,' Vashadze later told journalists.

International monitors said the runoff vote was 'competitive,' but Zurabishvili 'enjoyed an undue advantage,' citing the misuse of administrative resources that 'blurred the line between party and state.'

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, Interfax, and TASS RFE/RL's Georgian Service

RFE/RL's Georgian Service is widely regarded as the only objective and unbiased source of information in Georgia, where the government still retains a firm grip on media.

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Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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