Georgia’s top court clears move to remove president

Georgia’s top court clears move to remove president
Georgia’s top court clears move to remove president

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Georgia applied for EU membership together with Ukraine and Moldova after Russia invaded its pro-Western neighbour in February 2022. — Reuters pic

TBILISI, Oct 16 —Georgia’s constitutional court today ruled that pro-Western President Salome Zurabishvili had breached the constitution by making unauthorised foreign trips, paving the way for her removal.

In September, MPs from the ruling Georgian Dream party moved to oust the 71-year-old figurehead president, saying she had met foreign leaders to lobby for Georgia’s membership of the European Union without government permission.

By making foreign visits without government consent, “the president of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili has breached the constitution,” the head of Georgia’s constitutional court, Merab Turava said today.

Zurabishvili’s lawyer, Maia Kopaleishvili, told journalists the court “had no legal or factual basis to confirm the violation of the constitution by the president”.

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It was the court’s first-ever case dealing with a president’s impeachment in Georgia’s history.

Parliament speaker Shalva Papuashvili said the impeachment vote will be held over the coming days.

But Georgia’s ruling party has admitted to having little chance of ousting Zurabishvili as it only controls 84 seats in parliament, while the backing of at least 100 lawmakers is needed.

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Party chairman Irakli Kobakhidze admitted “there are practically no chances of garnering 100 votes,” adding: “Should Salome Zurabishvili have elementary dignity, she would resign”.

“She will only be seen nominally as Georgia’s president... and completely deprived of political and moral legitimacy.”

Opposition parties have said they would not support Zurabishvili’s removal.

‘Political battle’

EU chief Charles Michel met Zurabishvili in Brussels last month to reaffirm the bloc’s commitment to Georgia’s European path and highlight reforms it needed to enter the bloc.

Georgia applied for EU membership together with Ukraine and Moldova after Russia invaded its pro-Western neighbour in February 2022.

EU leaders have granted formal candidate status to Kyiv and Chisinau but urged Tbilisi to implement judicial and electoral reforms, improve press freedom and curtail the power of oligarchs.

Zurabishvili has harshly criticised the Georgian Dream government over what she said was its failure to deliver on the reform demands from the EU.

While relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have remained openly hostile for years, the Georgian government led by Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has in the past year made moves towards rapprochement.

In March, Georgia was rocked by protests after the government introduced a Russian-style law on “foreign agents”, and in May the government reopened direct flights with Russia, drawing condemnation from the EU.

Georgia’s first female president, Zurabishvili, was elected for a six-year term in 2018 with the support of Georgian Dream but quickly made enemies in the ranks of the parliamentary majority.

She was born in France to a Georgian family which fled the Bolshevik regime to Paris in 1921.

Her 30-year career in French diplomacy culminated in a posting as ambassador to Tbilisi, where she was then appointed foreign minister in 2004.

In her book “A Woman for Two Countries,” published in France, she wrote: “Now, I have to engage in a political battle, which has never attracted me, which I never practised, which is being imposed on me.” — AFP

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