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Georgians choose new president directly for last time

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) – Voters in Georgia are choosing a new president for the former Soviet republic, the last time the president will be elected by direct ballot.

Opinion polls ahead of Sunday’s election suggested that none of the 25 candidates is likely to receive the absolute majority need for a first-round win. If no one wins 50 percent support, a runoff between the top two candidates is to be held by Dec. 1.

After the new president’s six-year term in completed, future presidents are to be chosen by a delegate system, part of constitutional changes that make the prime minister the most powerful political figure in Georgia. The president functions as head of state and commander in chief but is otherwise largely ceremonial.

The three top contenders are all former foreign ministers: Salome Zurabishvili, Grigol Vashadze and David Bakradze.

Two women read a paper on the balcony of the headquarters of presidential candidate Salome Zurabishvili during the presidential election in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. Sunday’s election will be the last time residents of the former Soviet republic of Georgia get to cast a ballot for president, that’s if any of the 25 candidates gets an absolute majority. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

Believers light candles at a church in Tbilisi during the presidential election in Georgia, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. Sunday's election will be the last time residents of the former Soviet republic of Georgia get to cast a ballot for president, that's if any of the 25 candidates gets an absolute majority. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

Believers light candles at a church in Tbilisi during the presidential election in Georgia, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. Sunday’s election will be the last time residents of the former Soviet republic of Georgia get to cast a ballot for president, that’s if any of the 25 candidates gets an absolute majority. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

A man exits a polling booth as she prepares to cast her ballot in the presidential election in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. Sunday's election will be the last time residents of the former Soviet republic of Georgia get to cast a ballot for president, that's if any of the 25 candidates gets an absolute majority. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

A man exits a polling booth as she prepares to cast her ballot in the presidential election in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. Sunday’s election will be the last time residents of the former Soviet republic of Georgia get to cast a ballot for president, that’s if any of the 25 candidates gets an absolute majority. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

David Bakradze, presidential candidate from the European Georgia Party holds his ballot at the polling station in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018 . Sunday's election will be the last time residents of the former Soviet republic of Georgia get to cast a ballot for president, that's if any of the 25 candidates gets an absolute majority. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

David Bakradze, presidential candidate from the European Georgia Party holds his ballot at the polling station in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018 . Sunday’s election will be the last time residents of the former Soviet republic of Georgia get to cast a ballot for president, that’s if any of the 25 candidates gets an absolute majority. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

A woman exits a polling booth as she prepares to cast her ballot in the presidential election in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018 . Sunday's election will be the last time residents of the former Soviet republic of Georgia get to cast a ballot for president, that's if any of the 25 candidates gets an absolute majority. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

A woman exits a polling booth as she prepares to cast her ballot in the presidential election in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018 . Sunday’s election will be the last time residents of the former Soviet republic of Georgia get to cast a ballot for president, that’s if any of the 25 candidates gets an absolute majority. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

A woman exits a polling booth as she prepares to cast her ballot in the presidential election in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018 . Sunday's election will be the last time residents of the former Soviet republic of Georgia get to cast a ballot for president, that's if any of the 25 candidates gets an absolute majority. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

A woman exits a polling booth as she prepares to cast her ballot in the presidential election in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018 . Sunday’s election will be the last time residents of the former Soviet republic of Georgia get to cast a ballot for president, that’s if any of the 25 candidates gets an absolute majority. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili prepares to cast his ballot at a polling station during presidential election in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. Sunday's election will be the last time residents of the former Soviet republic of Georgia get to cast a ballot for president, that's if any of the 25 candidates gets an absolute majority. (Leli Blagonravova, Presidential Press Service Pool Photo via AP)

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili prepares to cast his ballot at a polling station during presidential election in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. Sunday’s election will be the last time residents of the former Soviet republic of Georgia get to cast a ballot for president, that’s if any of the 25 candidates gets an absolute majority. (Leli Blagonravova, Presidential Press Service Pool Photo via AP)

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili speaks to journalists after voting at a polling station during presidential election in in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. Sunday's election will be the last time residents of the former Soviet republic of Georgia get to cast a ballot for president, that's if any of the 25 candidates gets an absolute majority. (Leli Blagonravova, Presidential Press Service Pool Photo via AP)

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili speaks to journalists after voting at a polling station during presidential election in in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. Sunday’s election will be the last time residents of the former Soviet republic of Georgia get to cast a ballot for president, that’s if any of the 25 candidates gets an absolute majority. (Leli Blagonravova, Presidential Press Service Pool Photo via AP)

David Bakradze, presidential candidate from the European Georgia Party speaks to the media outside polling station in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018 . Sunday's election will be the last time residents of the former Soviet republic of Georgia get to cast a ballot for president, that's if any of the 25 candidates gets an absolute majority. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

David Bakradze, presidential candidate from the European Georgia Party speaks to the media outside polling station in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018 . Sunday’s election will be the last time residents of the former Soviet republic of Georgia get to cast a ballot for president, that’s if any of the 25 candidates gets an absolute majority. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

David Bakradze, presidential candidate from the European Georgia Party speaks to the media outside polling station in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018 . Sunday's election will be the last time residents of the former Soviet republic of Georgia get to cast a ballot for president, that's if any of the 25 candidates gets an absolute majority. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

David Bakradze, presidential candidate from the European Georgia Party speaks to the media outside polling station in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018 . Sunday’s election will be the last time residents of the former Soviet republic of Georgia get to cast a ballot for president, that’s if any of the 25 candidates gets an absolute majority. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

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