The ruling Georgian Dream Party has announced they intend to impeach Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili.
Speaking at a press briefing on 1 September, Irakli Kobakhidze, chair of the ruling Georgian Dream party, also announced that the party would sue President Salome Zurabishvili in the Constitutional Court.
The move was prompted by the presidential administration’s announcement on Thursday that Zurabishvili would be traveling to a series of official meetings in Europe, despite the Georgian government refusing her requests to do so.
[Read more on OC Media: Georgian president defies government with European visit]
The ruling party alleges that Zurabishvili acted in violation of the Georgian Constitution, as the president does not have the power to engage in foreign policy independently and without oversight of the executive branch.
Article 52 of Georgia’s constitution states that the President can exercise representative powers in foreign relations only with the consent of the government.
Both Kobakhidze and Mamuka Mdinaradze, chair of the ruling party’s parliamentary faction, have also alleged that the president intends to prevent Georgia receiving EU membership candidacy status. The claim is based in part on comments that Zurabishvili made earlier this year, stating that Georgia’s government was not on track to meet the EU recommendations before the country’s membership candidacy application was reexamined at the end of 2023.
Speaking to the media after the meeting of the party’s leaders, the party chair stated that the parliamentary majority currently lacked enough votes to impeach her. Impeachment of the president requires 100 votes in favour of the move out of 150 seats in parliament.
However, Kobakhidze argued that it was important to go through with the procedure for the sake of the rule of law, while also aiming to ‘expose a common agenda’ allegedly shared by Georgia’s president and its opposition; the latter an apparent reference to the expected failure of the vote in parliament.
The announcement came hours before President Zurabishvili is scheduled to meet with the President of the European Council, Charles Michel.
While Zurabishvili has not yet commented on the announcement, a photograph of the president smiling on a train, presumably in Europe, was posted on her official Instagram account shortly after Kobakhidze’s statement.
The opposition United National Movement (UNM), Lelo, and Strategy Aghmashenebeli parties swiftly denounced the ruling party’s decision.
UNM’s Irakli Pavlenishvili called the plan an act of 'sabotage' against Georgia’s European integration and an attempt to divert public attention from real problems. Paata Manjgaladze, an MP with Strategy Aghmashenebeli, alleged the decision was related to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interest in preventing Georgia achieving European candidate status.
Michael Roth, chair of Germany’s Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee, also expressed his support for President Zurabishvili.
Georgian Dream is threatening European dream of 🇬🇪 People. I stand in solidarity with State President @Zourabichvili_S a true European leader. Not she is threatening 🇬🇪 EU candidate status, but @GeorgianDream41‘s orbanization of 🇬🇪 + this impeachment attempt. pic.twitter.com/BN6ifwfrmC
— Michael Roth - official 🇪🇺🇺🇦 (@MiRo_SPD) September 1, 2023
Kobakhidze clarified during the press conference that the ruling party would proceed with impeachment proceedings against Zurabishvili after the Constitutional Court had ruled against her, with a parliamentary vote likely to take place in mid-October. Georgia’s Constitution gives the Constitutional Court a month to rule upon an appeal for impeachment submitted by at least 50 members of parliament.
This may provide the ruling party with time to both whip their own votes, and potentially secure some from opposition groups.
The European Socialists, a far-right pro-government party with four members of parliament are the only group so far to promise their support for the president’s impeachment.
Georgian Dream would need 18 votes on top of their existing parliamentary majority to impeach President Zurabishvili within two weeks of the Constitutional Court’s ruling.
Earlier this year, Zurabishvili stated in an address to parliament that she would not change her approach in light of threats to impeach her or sue her in Georgia’s constitutional court.
The Georgian Dream-led government previously attempted to sue the president in the summer of 2022 for allegedly violating the constitution, after Zurabishvili refused to confirm the government’s ambassadorial nominations. The ruling party eventually withdrew the lawsuit in January.