Georgian Government Launches Impeachment Proceedings Against Pro-European President

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 20 Issue: 140

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili (Source: Wikipedia)

On September 1, the ruling Georgian Dream party announced the initiation of impeachment procedures against President Salome Zourabichvili (, September 1). The ruling party’s discontent stems from Zourabichvili’s recent visits to Berlin, Brussels and Paris. Georgia is a parliamentary republic. In Georgia’s constitution, the president has weak powers and is merely the formal leader of the country. The president does possess representative functions, giving the position the right to represent Georgia in the international arena, though that requires government approval.

In the most recent cases, the Georgian Dream government did not grant Zourabichvili the necessary permissions. She, nevertheless, proceeded to visit each European capital. The Georgian president used personal funds, public transport or personal contacts in traveling to meet with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (, August 31), European Council President Charles Michel (, September 1) and French President Emmanuel Macron (, September 6). Official Georgian diplomatic missions did not take any part in organizing the visits.

The ruling party accuses Zourabichvili of a “gross violation” of the constitution. Party officials point out that, according to the country’s constitution, Georgia’s domestic and foreign policy is carried out by the government. Thus, the president does not have the right to make visits without the government’s consent.

Zourabichvili was still in the European Council meeting with Michel when she learned of the impending impeachment. The possible impeachment shocked officials in Brussels, as the Georgian president’s European tour was predicated on one goal: to convince her European colleagues to award Georgia official European Union candidate status.

Many European politicians have expressed solidarity with Zourabichvili in this. The chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the German Bundestag, Michael Roth, on his X (formerly known as Twitter) page recently expressed such sentiments: “President Zourabichvili is a true European leader.” He went on to describe that it is not Zourabichvili who is threatening Georgia’s EU candidate status, but the Georgian Dream party with its poor governance and this impeachment attempt (, September 1). On September 8, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, during a visit to Georgia, mentioned that the possible impeachment “risks to further increase the counterproductive polarization” within the country (, September 8).

The Georgian Dream government has given no sign that it will reverse its decision. Even so, it has little chance of successfully implementing the impeachment procedure. If the Georgian Constitutional Court confirms the violation of constitutional norms by Zourabichvili, the final decision on impeachment must be made by Georgia’s parliament. And Georgian Dream does not have the necessary votes in the legislative body to independently implement the impeachment procedure without the opposition’s support.

Considering Georgian Dream’s recent pro-Russian and pro-Chinese tilt, the opposition will almost certainly not support the authorities (see EDM, May 25, August 10). Moreover, Zourabichvili is a rather controversial figure. She has no party affiliation but was elected to the presidency with active support from the ruling party. She initially had low popularity ratings among the population, and Georgian Dream had to use enormous resources to promote her election. Zourabichvili has gradually begun to distance herself from the ruling party since becoming president.

Notably, the Georgian president can still wield her weak powers in effective ways. The right to pardon prisoners is one tool Zourabichvili has already used to put pressure on the ruling party. She recently pardoned an opposition media manager arrested on dubious claims, greatly angering the government. Now, a possible pardon for former President Mikheil Saakashvili is on the agenda. While Zourabichvili has repeatedly stated that she will never do this, her progressive falling out with Georgian Dream may cause her to reconsider her position. Some in the opposition refuse to believe in the sincerity of the president’s pro-Western direction until she pardons Saakashvili. In fact, it has been reported that “the opposition presented conditions to the president: if she pardons former President Saakashvili, then they will not join the impeachment(, September 1). Yet all parties deny that this ever happened.

The government further accuses Zourabichvili of deliberately preventing Georgia from obtaining the long-awaited EU candidate status with her visits to Europe. Paradoxically, Georgian Dream party leader Irakli Kobakhidze also claims that the president is trying to take credit for recent successes in the EU integration process (, September 1). Zourabichvili is generally greeted more kindly than the Georgian Dream leaders in Europe. Her attention to the Georgian population’s pro-European sentiments has made her into the standard-bearer for pro-EU Georgians (Eurasianet, June 2).

Russian politicians and officials have increasingly criticized Zourabichvili and praised the Georgian Dream government. Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council and former president, characterizes the current Georgian government as “pragmatic.” He also notes that “in Georgia, there are still ‘rabid, crazy, strange people.’ … Here is the current president of Georgia—she is a Frenchwoman who categorically opposes the development of her country’s economy” (RT, August 26). Zourabichvili was indeed born and raised in France, possesses dual Georgian-French citizenship and was once the French ambassador to Georgia.

Nevertheless, the Georgian public’s solidarity with its president is growing. Zourabichvili, upon her return from Europe, made a special address to the nation. In her remarks, she seemed full of hope and practically threatened the government herself: “You [the Georgian people] elected me as a supporter of Europe. … Let them not dream of my resignation. Moreover, I will travel everywhere, I will go to all the capitals of Europe. Georgia will never return to the Russian yoke. We will stand together for our rightful place in Europe. If the authorities understand this—it will be good. Otherwise, their future depends on it” (, September 7).

It remains unclear how the current conflict will end. Previously, the ruling party repeatedly threatened Zourabichvili with impeachment or a lawsuit in the Constitutional Court. The previous conflict between the president and the government arose when she refused to appoint some Georgian Dream ambassadorial candidates (, March 30, 2022).

The picture seems to be more or less the same for both Brussels and Moscow: the pro-Russian government is threatening to impeach the pro-European president. The Kremlin is certainly pleased with these developments, while the EU and Georgian society are alarmed as to what this portends for the country’s future.