In a press conference this week, Georgian Dream Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze announced the commencement of an impeachment procedure against Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili. Kobakhidze acknowledged that while the process requires the support of the opposition in parliament, the party views it as their constitutional duty to address what they perceive as a violation of the Constitution.
The grounds for impeachment, as outlined by Kobakhidze, stem from President Zurabishvili’s alleged breach of the Constitution by embarking on a series of foreign visits without the government’s approval. According to Georgian Dream, the Constitution explicitly mandates that the government has sole authority over both domestic and foreign policy.
While it is understood that garnering support from the opposition is pivotal for the impeachment process to proceed, Georgian Dream maintains that the primary objective is to have the Constitutional Court officially confirm the violation of the Constitution by President Zurabishvili.
The party contends that this move will serve to shed light on what they perceive as a close alignment between the President and the radical opposition.
“The meeting of the political council of the party was held, where, in addition to other issues, we discussed the gross violation of the Constitution of Georgia by the President of Georgia, who started a series of visits to foreign countries without the consent of the government. According to the Constitution of Georgia, only the government is authorized to implement the domestic and foreign policy of the country.
“According to Article 52, Clause 1, Sub-Clause A of the Constitution of Georgia, the President of Georgia shall exercise representative powers in foreign relations only with the approval of the government. As such, the text of the Constitution does not leave even minimal space for its non-uniform interpretation. It is known to the public that the President of Georgia has a radically different attitude from the government towards the processes related to Georgia’s EU membership candidate status. In particular, her position is that Georgia did not deserve the candidate status last year.
“Moreover, according to her, the parliament and the government are only formally fulfilling the requirements of the European Union, which means that, in her opinion, Georgia does not deserve the status of a candidate even now.
“Given such an attitude, it is obvious that any European visit of the President of Georgia is counterproductive from the point of view of Georgia’s chances to receive the candidate status and directly opposes the efforts of the Georgian government to receive said status. Therefore, the refusal of the Georgian government regarding the European tour planned by the President was justified both from the legal and political point of view,” said Kobakhidze.
He claimed that Salome Zurabishvili is trying to play “a kind of invincibility game.”
“On the one hand, she knows that from today’s point of view, the prospect of granting Georgia candidate status has increased, and she wants to earn points from such a possible development of events. On the other hand, she will try, as much as possible, to prevent Georgia from receiving the candidate status.
“The Constitution of Georgia provides for the only effective legal mechanism for responding to its violation – this is impeachment. Yesterday and the day before yesterday, we were repeatedly pointing out that despite the gross violation of the Constitution, impeachment was impossible in the given political situation. The support of 100 MPs is required for the implementation of impeachment and, accordingly, without the votes of the radical opposition, it has no prospect of execution. Despite this, at the meeting of the political council of the party, we made a decision to initiate the impeachment procedure against the President of Georgia. First of all, this is our responsibility before the Constitution of Georgia. Turning a blind eye to gross violations of the Constitution undermines the rule of law of a legal state and democratic constitutional system. In addition, the impeachment procedure will once again expose the common agenda of the radical opposition and Salome Zurabishvili, which is directed against the state interests of Georgia, including Georgia’s candidate status.
In order to initiate the impeachment procedure, the signatures of the members of the parliamentary majority will be collected in the next few days, and the relevant constitutional submission will be filed with the Constitutional Court of Georgia,” Kobakhidze said.
The impeachment procedure, as outlined in the Constitution, necessitates the backing of at least one-third of the full parliament membership (50 deputies). To actually remove the President from office through impeachment, 100 votes are required. This highlights the significance of cooperation with the opposition in this endeavor.
European Parliamentarian Viola von Cramon has weighed in on the situation, expressing the view that the initiation of impeachment may be seen as an attempt to divert public attention from other pressing issues.
“In my opinion, this is an attempt to divert public attention from real problems,” the MEP stated.
The process outlined in the Constitution stipulates that the matter must be referred to the Constitutional Court, which is tasked with considering it and presenting its conclusion to the Parliament within a month. If the Constitutional Court confirms the violation of the Constitution or the presence of signs of a crime, the Parliament must then consider and vote on the issue of the removal of the official from office through impeachment within two weeks.
Ultimately, the President of Georgia can only be removed from office by impeachment if the decision garners the support of at least two-thirds of the full membership of the Parliament. Should the Parliament fail to reach a decision within the specified period, initiating the impeachment procedure on the same grounds is prohibited.
In light of these developments, the initiation of the impeachment procedure against President Salome Zurabishvili marks a significant political event in Georgia’s recent history. The outcome will hinge on political maneuvering and cooperation between the ruling party and the opposition in the days ahead.
By Mariam Gorkhelashvili