TBILISI : Georgia's newly elected President Salome Zurabishvili on Thursday hailed her victory as a step forward for women and a move closer to Europe for the ex-Soviet republic.

With all votes counted, the country's election commission said the French born former diplomat, backed by the ruling Georgian Dream party, had taken 59.52 per cent of the second-round vote.

Her rival Grigol Vashadze, from an alliance of 11 opposition parties led by exiled ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili's United National Movement took 40.48 per cent.

The opposition denounced the election as a fraud. But while raising some serious concerns, foreign observers said the vote was ''competitive'' and well-run.

''It is now important to show that this country has chosen Europe,'' Zurabishvili told journalists after her win. ''For that purpose, Georgians have elected a European woman president.''

''It feels great,'' she added, pointing out that she was one of a small number of women presidents in the world. The election was seen as a test of  Georgia's democratic credentials as it seeks European Union and Nato membership.


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