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Georgia: Pro-EU president survives impeachment vote

October 18, 2023

Lawmakers from Georgia's ruling party failed to win enough votes to unseat the pro-EU president, Salome Zurabishvili.

Georgia's President Salome Zurabishvili speaks during a plenary session at the EU Parliament in Brussels
Salome Zurabishvili travelled to Brussels, Paris, and Berlin to ask her French and German counterparts as well as EU chief Charles Michel to support putting Georgia on the formal path to EU membershipImage: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images

Georgia's President Salome Zurabishvili escaped an impeachment attempt by the countrie's legislature on Wednesday.

Eighty-six of the 150 deputies in the Georgian parliament voted in favor of impeachment. That was well short of the two-thirds majority required. The opposition parties boycotted the vote.

Speaking before the vote, Zurabishvili called the proceedings a "farce" and suggested, without providing evidence, that they had been instigated by Russia.

Georgian Dream, the ruling party with which Zurabishvili was once allied, announced impeachment proceedings in September.

What was Zurabishvili accused of?

The ruling party accused Zurabishvili of breaking the law by meeting with EU leaders to drum up support for membership without the government's permission.

On Monday, Georgia's constitutional court ruled that by doing so the president had violated the constitution.

"No-one could impede me on the road leading to the sole goal I have today: to get EU candidate status for Georgia by the end of the year," she told parliament ahead of the vote.

"During this difficult time, I call on our European partners not to abandon Georgia despite this anti-European impeachment vote," she said.

Why was Georgia denied EU candidate status?

Membership in the European Union and NATO is enshrined in Gorgia's constitution and widely supported by the country's population.

Georgia applied for EU membership along with Ukraine and Moldova in February 2022, however EU leaders have granted candidate status only to Kyiv and Chisinau.

They also urged Tbilisi to first implement judicial and electoral reforms, improve press freedom and curtail the power of oligarchs.

Zurabishvili had criticized the government for failing to implement reforms demanded by Brussels as a condition for granting EU-hopeful Georgia formal candidate status.

What is the role of president in Georgia?

The role of president in Georgia is largely ceremonial, and Zurabishvili has limited powers under the country's constitution. 

She is Georgia's last directly elected president, as the country transitioned to a parliamentary form of government following a controversial constitutional reform.

Georgia's next president will be elected by a 300-member electoral college.

dh/jcg (AFP, Reuters)