Why Did Georgian Government Need a Pre-failed Impeachment Attempt?

Monday, 23 October 2023

The first-ever impeachment attempt against President Salome Zourabichvili in the history of Georgia failed last week. The reason was her visits to Europe against the government's will. The ruling party Georgian Dream lacked the necessary votes.

Despite the formal failure, the ruling party achieved some success. They made it difficult for Zourabichvili's future visits and now threaten her with criminal prosecution.

All of this becomes particularly important in the context of expected mass protests, which could be triggered by the EU's refusal to grant Georgia candidate status, as noted in an article by EuroPravda editor Yurii Panchenko – Impeachment for Advancing European Integration: What's Behind the Attempt to Oust the President of Georgia.

The Georgian government's decision not to allow the president to make international visits was prompted by her public criticism of the progress in fulfilling the "homework" for EU candidate status. She also stated that "vague foreign policy" hinders progress toward EU membership.

The government interpreted this criticism as sabotaging European integration because these statements directly contradicted their claims that Georgia is a leader in implementing European reforms, surpassing Ukraine, Moldova. They insist that the refusal to grant candidate status is only due to political reasons: refusing to open a "second front" in the war against Russia and opposition intrigues and their friends in Brussels.

However, Salome Zourabichvili was not deterred by the government's refusal. She referred to another constitutional norm stating that state officials should do everything possible to achieve EU membership for Georgia.

The head of state embarked on a tour to the EU. The Georgian authorities consider these visits a blatant violation of the constitution. More importantly, the Constitutional Court agrees with these arguments.

The idea of impeachment initially seemed utterly utopian. Georgian Dream has a simple majority in parliament, but a constitutional majority was required for this.

In the end, only 86 MPs voted for the impeachment of Salome Zourabichvili out of the necessary 100.

However, the ruling party has not given up on punishing the president. The most scandalous aspect was the statement about the possibility of her criminal prosecution.

At the same time, the Speaker of the Parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, appealed to international partners, urging them to "refrain from meeting with President Salome Zourabichvili" if the Georgian government continues to deny permission for corresponding foreign visits.

Despite the impeachment idea not working, the Georgian government has partially achieved its goal.

Firstly, they have a Constitutional Court decision that will clearly complicate the president's future international contacts.

Of course, these contacts will continue. The opposition had already directly called on Zourabichvili to do so. It seems she is heeding this advice.

Secondly, the Georgian government will be able to blame the president and the opposition in case the EU refuses to grant candidate status. Moreover, the mere fact of an impeachment attempt increases the chances of an EU refusal.

Furthermore, they can accuse European countries of allegedly demanding not only the "opening of a second front" against Russia but also violating the norms of the Georgian constitution.

The Georgian government is simultaneously preparing for mass protests that may arise due to the EU's refusal.

If they manage to overcome these protests (or if they turn out to be not very powerful), the pro-Russian foreign policy vector will only strengthen.

In a situation where the government monopolises external contacts, opposing this will become even more challenging.

If you notice an error, select the required text and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editors.