The attempt to impeach the president of Georgia was politically unnecessary and diplomatically costly
19 October 2023
Georgia is a parliamentary republic. The people vote for the members of parliament who then appoint a prime minister. He/She and his/her ministers are the executive authority. The president, with one or two small exceptions is a symbolic head of state, a totem pole for the nation to unite around, much as is a constitutional monarch in say Scandinavia or the Benelux. So when the Georgian government says that President Salome Zurabishvili had no authority to travel to Europe without its permission, and to speak to foreign governments on sensitive foreign policy issues without its permission, they were technically right. Yet, the Georgian government’s decision to push forward the impeachment of President Salome Zurabishvili was not only politically unnecessary, but also counterproductive and wrong. The government knew it was unlikely to succeed with the impeachment given it did not have the necessary numbers in the parliament, but proceeded just the same. It sought the advice of the Constitutional Court, which as predicted, on 16 October ruled that the Constitution had been breached. It then moved the impeachment resolution to the parliament, where it only secured 86, out of the 100 votes necessary. Salome Zurabishvili thus remains the president of Georgia. Yet this act of political folly comes with a diplomatic price. It puts question marks on the wisdom of the current government, and it makes Georgia appear increasingly like a banana republic, hardly fit to become an EU member anytime soon.