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Impeachment Unveiled: Georgia's Political Turmoil Amid Western Diplomacy

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Wednesday, September 13, 2023
For the first time in the history of Georgia, the ruling political force Georgian Dream has started the process of impeachment of President Salome Zourabishvili, accusing her of violating the constitution, although the representatives of the ruling power themselves admit that they will not be able to achieve this goal.

Now experts and politicians are trying to find out why the Georgian Dream took this step and what political consequences the started process will have.

The Georgian Dream, after collecting more than 50 signatures required for impeachment, will challenge the decision of the Constitutional Court on whether the Constitution has been violated or not. Constitutionalists and politicians could not agree on who violated the Constitution. According to Article 51, Clause 'A' of the Constitution of Georgia, the President can make official visits and make agreements only with the permission of the Government, and the Government did not give the President the right to travel to EU countries. Zurabishvili's team's answer to this is simple - Salome Zourabishvili is on a private visit to EU countries, and the government's permission is not required for this.

According to Article 78 of the Constitution, the governmental structures of Georgia are obliged to do everything for the integration of Georgia into the Euro-Atlantic structures. The purpose of Salome Zurabishvili's European tour was to lobby for granting Georgia a candidate for EU membership. That is, Salome Zurabishvili acted in accordance with Article 78 of the Constitution.

The explanation of the leaders of the Georgian Dream is also interesting. On the question of why they didn't allow Zourabishvili to go on an official visit to the EU countries, they claim the goal of the President of Georgia was to prevent Georgia from getting candidate status.

This is how they explained their actions to the citizens of Georgia, but how convincing it is for Georgia's Western partners, whom Zurabishvili is talking to, is another matter. On the contrary, after the Russian attack on Ukraine, the leaders of the ruling team made various anti-Western statements, unlike Salome Zurabishvili. Therefore, in the West, Salome Zurabishvili is a more acceptable representative of the Georgian government than the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Parliament, or any party leader of the Georgian Dream party.

Moreover, unlike all these people, Salome Zurabishvili has a high degree of legitimacy, because she was elected by popular vote.

The open conflict between the representatives of the government reminded everyone of the 2018 presidential elections when Bidzina Ivanishvili and the leaders of Georgian Dream personally did everything to elect Zurabishvili as the president. Prior to the second round, Zourabishvili's billboards already featured Bidzina Ivanishvili and the ruling party team who have started the process of the president's impeachment.

Disagreement between the president and Georgian Dream emerged after the start of the war in Ukraine. The president has made and continues to make statements in support of Ukraine, he has never criticized Western partners, and in the current government of Georgia, she is the only one who embodies the orientation towards the West, which is also declared by the country's constitution.

The part of the opposition, that remembers Salome Zourabishvili's earlier pro-Russian statements, for example, about how "Georgia started the 2008 war", still does not believe in her oppositionist appearances.

Zourabishvili never criticized Bidzina Ivanishvili after his switching to behind-the-scenes. That's why they believe that the president's pro-Western statements are approved by Ivanihvili and that their purpose is to prevent the Georgian billionaire from possible sanctions from the West.

However, in Georgian politics, they do not like to be reminded of the past. What holds significance is the present persona of the politician. Today, Salome Zurabishvili enjoys great authority in the West, and the discussion on the impeachment of the Georgian Dream increased her support.

Before the parliamentary elections of 2024, the Georgian pro-Western opposition may welcome a unifying leader, who can hardly be blamed by anyone for their connection with the United National Movement.

Saakashvili's party has a solid electorate in the pro-Western part of society, but, as noted, Saakashvili and his party are not acceptable to the entire pro-Western segment, which constitutes a large majority of the electorate.

Today, many are discussing whether the Georgian Dream will be able to bring the impeachment process to an end. 100 votes are needed in the parliament to remove the president from office. The Georgian Dream together with its open allies collects 84 votes. They might have to try for 16 votes in the opposition part of the parliament. The Georgian Dream claims that it does not intend to do this, but past experience shows that the Georgian Dream can make a deal with the opposition, and they do not rule out this possibility.

For the first time in the German media appeared the version that the United National Movement is asking Zourabishvili to pardon Saakashvili, in exchange for not supporting her impeachment. The United National Movement rejects such trade with Zourabishvili while reiterating that President Saakashvili must be pardoned. Zourabishvili has stated several times that she would never do this.

The further development of events will significantly depend on whether Georgia receives the candidate status or not. Receiving this status, according to a number of experts, will actually allow the Georgian Dream to declare it as an achievement and use it for election purposes.

In case the country isn't granted the candidate status, the government will blame the opposition and the West, explaining that Georgia refused to open a 'second front' and will continue to move towards Russia and China more actively.