President says she won’t resign as impeachment vote nears

President Salome Zourabichvili urged the opposition to boycott her impeachment vote this week. Photo: President’s press office, 17 Oct 2023 - 11:59, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili on Monday said she had “no plans to resign”, in response to the ruling by the country’s Constitutional Court earlier during the day which backed her impeachment initiated by the ruling Georgian Dream party last month for her recent foreign visits without the Government's authorisation. 

Saying she was “disappointed” by the Court’s move - which she called “shameful” and “harmful” for domestic judiciary and Georgia’s European future - Zourabichvili urged opposition groups to boycott her impeachment vote scheduled in the Parliament later this week, and added she would attend the vote and make a speech “if allowed”. 

The French-born first female President of the country, who was backed by GD in the 2018 vote, claimed her goal was Georgia’s European integration, and said “despite [certain domestic forces] creating obstacles” for the intention, Tbilisi would receive the European Union membership candidate status later this year and then launch accession negotiations with the bloc. 

She alleged the Court ruling had “killed, or attempted to kill the county’s European future and its democracy with one stone”, before claiming she did not intend to “make the ruling party’s dream come true” and quit following the judgment. 

Reacting to the ruling on Monday, Irakli Kobakhidze, the head of GD, said Zourabichvili would resign following the ruling “if she has retained dignity”, but alleged the President was “not independent in her moves, and cannot make such a decision without the consent of the forces that had pushed her to grossly violate the Constitution”.

He also claimed the Court had “confirmed the simple truth” that Zourabichvili had “repeatedly, deliberately and grossly” violated the Constitution through her unauthorised European trip in later August and September, and was “thereby blatantly opposing the constitutional order and the system of parliamentary governance” established by the country’s main law. 

In her previous claims, Zourabichvili rejected the allegations and said her visits aimed at helping her country to obtain the EU membership candidate status “in line with the Constitution”, which mandates the country’s authorities to act for Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration. 

The ruling party will need at least 100 votes in the 150-member Parliament to dismiss Zourabichvili, with Kobakhidze saying on Monday his party had “lower chances” to gather enough votes. 

Zourabichvili’s term as the fifth President of Georgia officially expires next year, and she will be the last President of the country to be directly elected by citizens, as her successor will be elected by a 300-member electoral college approved by the Central Election Commission, in line with 2017 amendments in domestic laws.  

Zourabichvili, the granddaughter of political immigrants who fled from Georgia in 1921 after the Red Army invasion, earlier served in the French diplomatic corps, before taking the post of the French Ambassador to Georgia in 2003, under the country’s presidency of Eduard Shevardnadze.  

After the 2004 Rose Revolution in Georgia, she was offered the post of the Foreign Minister by the then President Mikheil Saakashvili, which she took for about a year, before she slammed the policies of the United National Movement Government and joined the opposition in October 2005. 

However, she failed to form a competitive political power and left the country in 2010, returning in 2012, after the Georgian Dream coalition defeated UNM in the Parliamentary Elections, and was elected as an independent MP in 2016 voting after GD removed its candidacy to encourage her victory in the majoritarian race. 

Zourabichvili also ran as an independent candidate in the 2018 Presidential Elections and was openly backed by GD in the race.