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1 Sep, 2023 12:43

Ex-Soviet state’s anti-Russian president faces impeachment

Salome Zourabichvili went on a foreign tour this week without the government’s mandate
Ex-Soviet state’s anti-Russian president faces impeachment

The ruling party in Georgia has announced the start impeachment proceedings against President Salome Zourabichvili, arguing that she violated the constitution by going on a foreign tour without the consent of the cabinet.

The Georgian Dream party made its move on Friday. Its chairman Irakli Kobakhidze said the wording of the constitution left no doubt about the lawless nature of the president’s actions and that impeaching Zourabichvili, who was elected as an independent, was the only recourse left for MPs.

After gaining independence, Georgia initially was a presidential republic, but amendments shifted executive power to the prime minister after the 2013 presidential election. The office is now mostly ceremonial, though the head of state can represent the country internationally “with the consent of the Government,” according to the current constitution.

Zourabichvili allegedly violated that provision this week, when she flew to Europe against the wishes of ministers. She met German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday and plans to visit other European nations with the stated goal of supporting her home nation’s bid to join the EU.

The Georgian government said on Wednesday that the request by Zourabichvili’s office to approve working visits to Germany, Ukraine, Switzerland, Poland, Belgium, Denmark, the UAE, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Israel had been denied.

Kobakhidze acknowledged that removing the president may pose a challenge for his party. Support of at least one-third of the parliament is required to ask the Constitutional Court to look into the allegations. Should it confirm the merits of the case, a two-thirds majority vote would be needed to oust Zourabichvili.

Georgian Dream and its coalition partner People’s Power have 84 lawmakers combined in the 150-seat unicameral parliament.

“Without the votes of the radical opposition, the impeachment has no chance to succeed,” Kobakhidze said during a briefing.

The relationship between Zourabichvili and the Georgian government deteriorated over the years. One of her recent criticisms was over Tbilisi’s gradual reconciliation with Moscow, highlighted by the restoration of air travel in May.

The president branded the decision “a provocation” and seemingly endorsed demonstrators who met the first flight from Russia with a protest.