Experts on the attempt to impeach the Georgian President
Assessments of Zurabishvili impeachment attempt
The political saga of the impeachment proceedings against Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has come to an end.
As expected, the opposition did not support the impeachment of the President. 86 in favor, one against – these are the results of the vote.
On September 1, the ruling Georgian Dream party came forward with an initiative to declare impeachment of Zurabishvili and initiated the relevant procedures. The reason was said to be that the President hd grossly violated the constitution when she made several visits to European countries without the consent of the government. The President’s visits were not actually authorized by the government. Zurabishvili responded that she traveled abroad on her own money and lobbied for Georgia’s status as a candidate country for the European Union.
Before the issue could be put to a vote in parliament, the Constitutional Court had to determine whether the president had violated the constitution. The court ruled that she had.
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The whole process was accompanied by harsh statements of the ruling team towards the President, as well as some steps by Salome Zurabishvili, which meant her open confrontation with the government. For example, the day before the impeachment vote in parliament, the president vetoed the so-called law on tents and also revoked the Georgian citizenship of former Georgian Prosecutor General Otar Partskhaladze, who is under US sanctions and is believed to be part of Ivanishvili’s inner circle.
Yes, impeachment did not happen, but it will be difficult for Salome Zurabishvili to make foreign visits in the future. Chairman of the Georgian Dream Irakli Kobakhidze has already threatened that if the President continues to travel without the government’s permission, a criminal case will be opened against her immediately after the end of her presidential term.
The events were assessed differently in the country. Some called the process a circus, saying that Zurabishvili, who became president at the behest of the country’s shadow ruler Bidzina Ivanishvili, was playing a game started by the oligarch. Others saw Russian factor and personal revenge in the confrontation between Ivanishvili and Zurabishvili.
JAMnews asked political observers their take on the whole fiasco and what it means for Georgian politics.
Gia Nodia, political scientist:
All this, in my opinion, is not very seriously thought out and in a way looks like the whim of Ivanishvili, who is angry with Zurabishvili. I did not see any deep political thought.
The main problem is that Zurabishvili does not obey Ivanishvili. Ivanishvili believes (and he also believed with regard to Margvelashvili [former president of Georgia]) that if he appoints someone as president, the president should obey. And if he does not obey, he is an enemy.
The reason was visits to Europe. Perhaps Kobakhidze or some lawyer told Ivanishvili that President’s actions contradict the Constitution. Ivanishvili rejoiced and said, let us punish her now.
▇ The main problem is that Zurabishvili is not subordinate to Ivanishvili.
It is clear that the authorities knew in advance that they would not be able to bring the impeachment to an end in parliament, but the Constitutional Court decided that the president had violated the constitution, and they decided that the president was thus punished. I don’t see anything else.
As for the confrontation between Zurabishvili and Ivanishvili, it is not only the pardon of Niki Gvaramia [ex-director of the former opposition TV channel Rustavi 2]. While traveling abroad, the president seemed to criticize the Georgian Dream. Ivanishvili did not like this and considered it betrayal. She also criticizes Georgian Dream in public speeches. Not Ivanishvili personally, but what does it matter? She is clearly acting at her own risk, but she shouldn’t have done it.
The Russia factor or just stupidity
Gia Khukhashvili, political scientist:
What happened was beneficial to the political process because it revitalized the situation to some extent. It is a very rare thing when the government loses this battle outright and the opposition shows a principled position and we did not have any surprises regarding the voting. The most important thing is that a very serious player appeared on the political space in the person of Salome Zurabishvili. So everything is in order.
Why did Georgian Dream need this? It was just idiocy, miscalculation. It is also possible that only Kobakhidze was interested in this process. Of course, such things are not done without Ivanishvili and of course it was coordinated therewith. He is committing foolishness after foolishness.
▇ A very serious player has appeared on the political space in the person of Salome Zurabishvili.
If we still want to see the political logic, then only Russia can be seen here, and I cannot allow any other option.
That is, the authorities to some extent have created an alibi for Russia, they say that if Georgia is granted the status of EU candidate we did not want it, it was Salome’s fault and you see, we even punished her for it. That’s all, nothing more.
JAMnews: The National Movement stated that Ivanishvili and Zurabishvili are playing the same game. What do you think about this?
This is not a serious statement. And I am sure that they themselves do not believe in this nonsense. They just have an acute jealousy towards Salome Zurabishvili based on the fact that she has acted as a heavyweight leader on the side of the West, and they are nervous because they want to strengthen themselves on this position. Accordingly, they will try to discredit her in every way possible in the eyes of pro-Western voters.
Subordination of Zurabishvili
Corneli Kakachia, political scientist:
First of all, probably the purpose of this was that the Georgian Dream is trying to usurp all branches of power. They have succeeded in subjugating all branches of power. The only thing that it still cannot control is the presidency, and this was one of the main goals. The second, of course, is to cause reputational damage to Salome Zurabishvili herself, who has recently been trying to become an independent player in Georgian politics. In any case, she is going against the team and Georgian Dream does not want Zurabishvili to strengthen her positions on her own.
JAMnews: Do you think that there was no EU accession factor here? That is, the authorities opposed Zurabishvili not because she came to support status acceptance, it was only because of the personal factor?
Of course, this is also a component. They were irritated by the fact that Zurabishvili was in favor of European integration. “Georgian Dream” believes that if European integration is to take place, only the authorities should be the protagonists. However, it seems that Dream is not at all interested in getting the status of a candidate. At this time, the president is trying to resuscitate this topic behind their back in the capitals of Europe. Therefore, it is natural that this could also be one of the options.
▇ Zurabishvili is a European diplomat, it is important to her what she will remain in history. We see that she is not going to follow the Georgian Dream.
JAMnews: What goal has the Georgian Dream achieved with this? Some have called the whole thing a circus, what do you think?
Zurabishvili is a very controversial politician, maybe some people like her, some people do not. Especially if we take into account how she got into Georgian politics – she had no rating, in fact Georgian Dream made her president. Here, naturally, the question of her political figure arises.
Today she thinks first of all about her own reputation and her own political legacy. She is a European diplomat and it is very important for her how she will remain in history. We can see that Zurabishvili is not really going to follow the Georgian Dream.
However, she does not seem to want to burn bridges with Bidzina Ivanishvili. She remembers that she is appointed by him personally, so she doesn’t even mention Ivanishvili. So it seems that this is also one of the reasons why the public feels that they are playing a game started by Ivanishvili. But we don’t really know that, and I don’t like conspiracy theories.
It is a fact that she has a serious conflict with the leaders of Georgian Dream. They also tried in every possible way to spoil her reputation, but I don’t think the authorities succeeded. On the contrary, I think that Zurabishvili’s rating has grown, especially abroad.