TBILISI, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- Georgians went to the polls Sunday to elect a successor to outgoing President Mikheil Saakashvili.
Polling stations in the South Caucasus country opened at 8 a.m. local time (0400 GMT) and will close at 8 p.m. (1600 GMT). Some 3.5 million eligible voters will cast their votes, according to the Central Election Commission (CEC).
Opinion polls have given Giorgi Margvelashvili, from the ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia coalition, a comfortable lead in the race to become the country's fourth president since its independence in 1991.
Saakashvili has served two full terms and is prevented from contesting a third by the Georgian constitution.
A record 23 candidates are running this year, compared to only seven at the last presidential election, in 2008, and six in each of the previous four.
The CEC said 55 international and 57 local institutions would monitor the election. No irregularities have been reported so far.
Despite the record number of candidates this year, only three are considered serious contenders - former first deputy prime minister and education minister Margvelasvili, former parliament speaker Davit Bakradze, and former parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze.