Georgia's president survives impeachment vote over EU visits
Georgia's President Salome Zurabishvili has narrowly survived an impeachment attempt, triggered by her visits to European Union countries and meetings with EU leaders without government consent, which the Constitutional Court deemed unconstitutional.
The impeachment effort fell short of the two-thirds majority required for removal, as opposition parties boycotted the vote.
Zurabishvili had travelled to EU countries, including Paris, Berlin, and Brussels, to promote Georgia's EU candidacy. Georgia applied for EU membership in March 2022 but has not yet been granted candidate status. During the parliamentary debate, President Zurabishvili defended her actions, stating that she had not violated the constitution and warning that the impeachment process could isolate Georgia from Europe.
Zurabishvili, a former French diplomat of Georgian descent, assumed the largely symbolic presidency in 2018 with the crucial support of the ruling Georgian Dream party. However, she has since distanced herself from the party, repeatedly criticising it for its perceived pro-Russian stance and insufficient commitment to strengthening ties with the West.
In March, Zurabishvili vowed to veto a proposed bill that sought to mandate non-governmental organisations (NGOs) receiving more than 20% of their funding from foreign sources to register as "foreign agents". The bill drew comparisons to similar laws used to suppress dissent in Russia. Eventually, following extensive street protests, the bill was withdrawn.
The push for impeachment was led by Georgian Dream and its leader, Irakli Kobakhidze. He accused Zurabishvili of working against the country's vital interests and called for her resignation regardless of the vote's outcome.
The impeachment effort reflects the political polarisation in Georgia, with President Zurabishvili gaining popularity for her pro-Western and pro-Ukrainian stance, which contrasts with some of the ruling party's controversial decisions.
While Ukraine and Moldova were granted EU candidate status in June 2022, Georgia was given an EU "perspective" and a list of recommended reforms. The European Commission has called on Georgia to address judicial reform, combat corruption and organised crime as part of its path toward EU membership.
The role of the president in Georgia is largely ceremonial, with limited constitutional powers, as the country has a parliamentary system of government. The next president will be elected by a 300-member electoral college.
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