‘’Our president has no trouble moving around, she could have been here, but she apparently did not consider it necessary. I hope it doesn’t happen that you state your position on her behalf, and then she comes out and says ‘’this is lawyer talk, I don’t know, I’m not a lawyer, this is how they defined the issue, but I don’t agree with it.’’ The parliamentary secretary of the president is here, who is well aware of in-house dealings, and I am surprised she is not by your side,’’ said Merab Turava, Chairman of the Constitutional Court of Georgia, while discussing the issue of impeachment of the president.

The session in the Constitutional Court opened on October 3 at 12:00. Representatives of the president are Tamar Chugoshvili and Maia Kopaleishvili, a former member of the Parliament from the Georgian Dream party and a former judge of the Constitutional Court, respectively.

Before delving into the heart of the matter, and before Judge Turava asked why the president was not attending, the Chairman of the ruling party Georgian Dream Irakli Kobakhidze remarked that the ‘’president’s nonappearance was a show of disrespect towards the Constitutional Court.’’

‘’She has time for unconstitutional visits, but cannot find time for Constitutional Court, which is really disappointing,’’ said Kobakhidze.

‘’The president has the right to send a representative. The President of Georgia expressed full confidence in us. We have information not just on legal, but on all factual matters of the case. We should definitely not consider it a show of disrespect,’’ explained Maia Kopaleishvili.

Parliament members Irakli Kobakhidze, Shalva Papuashvili, Mamuka Mdinaradze, and others (80 majority MPs in total) applied to the Constitutional Court on September 12, 2023, for the impeachment of the President. Georgian Dream accuses the president of violating the constitution, as despite the government's refusal, Salome Zourabichvili still proceeded with meetings with European leaders. ‘’Everyone should forget about dreams of my deposal, I will continue my visits,’’ - is how Zourabichvili responded to the ruling party's motion.

‘’Article 52 of the Constitution of Georgia establishes the powers of the President of Georgia in the field of foreign relations. This article states that the president can only exercise representative powers and conduct negotiations on behalf of the government. The president asked for consent, did not get it, but still proceeded with the visit - the constitution was thus violated,’’ said Kobakhidze. According to him, Salome Zourabichvili directly admitted on three separate occasions that her visits were unconstitutional:

’She asked for consent for the visit herself, right? Meaning she was aware that such foreign visits require consent, and after she failed to obtain consent, she went ahead anyway. If she truly believed that the visits did not require consent, she would not have applied to the government in the first place.

Secondly, she later stated that the visits were not financed from the budget and she traveled using private funds, which is another admission. If the visits were legitimate, why were they not financed from the budget? It was a direct admission that the visits were illegitimate and therefore she had to finance them out of her own pocket. Otherwise, had she spent budget money, that would have made it a criminal offense along with a constitutional violation, because according to the legislation, that would be a misappropriation of funds. When it comes to impeachment, you can count on specific MPs not to support your deposal, but if you commit a crime, you can't count on politicians. Therefore, being aware that her going to the visits was illegitimate, she spent not the budget, but her own money.

A few days ago, Ms. Salome Zourabichvili gave an interview with Lithuanian Public Broadcaster, where she stated the following: ‘’I will come clean, I am not officially authorized to make this visit, but I am acting on faith and I believe that I should have done it.’’

According to Kobakhidze, the president fundamentally opposes the system of government established by the Constitution of Georgia.

‘’The authors of the law do not consider it a violation of the constitution when the head of state meets the heads of other countries or high-ranking officials inside the country. I do not understand why the definition of Article 52 depends on boarding a plane and flying abroad,’’ said the representative of the president at the meeting, Tamar Chugoshvili, to which Kobakhidze replied: ‘’The practice is flawed, and this flaw will be corrected. The government may sometimes not be in favor of the president meeting any official that comes to Georgia, either. There are political nuances, because of which you can turn a blind eye to a specific clause and maintain an imperfect practice for the time being, but this separate issue is not related to the matter at hand.’’

‘’So every time the president, say, sends a congratulatory letter, she has to request the government’s permission for this as well… We are reaching the point of absurdity. You, Irakli Kobakhidze, cannot determine and prescribe who should do what. I am the secretary of the constitutional commission; I am the co-initiator and a supporter of this constitution.

It is very important to me that this constitution is not misused, but interpreted in a way that corresponds to the interests of our country,’’ said Chugoshvili.

At the session, the representative of the president, Maia Kopaleishvili, explained that there is no legal and factual basis for considering the three meetings referenced in the submission as a violation of the constitution.

‘’Attention should be given to the constitutional status of the president. Although her authority is quite limited by the constitution, it should be taken into account that according to the constitution, she is the head of state of Georgia, and naturally, the constitution grants the president of Georgia certain authority in foreign relations, where the president does not need the approval of the government. The European visits referenced in the submission were carried out in a completely different format,’’ - according to Maia Kopaleishvili, the authors of the submission intentionally avoid mentioning Article 49 of the Constitution, according to which practicing the powers granted to the president do not require the approval of the government.

‘’The actual legal status of the president is determined by this very article. Section 3 of Article 49 grants the right to represent Georgia in foreign relations independently, without the special consent of the government, within the framework defined by the said section. The Constitutional Court will unavoidably face the need to distinguish the contents of Article 49, Section 3 and Article 52, Section 1, Sub-Section A of the Constitution,’’ said Kopaleishvili.

The plenum of the Constitutional Court will continue the consideration of the constitutional submissions on the impeachment of the President on October 4, at 11:00.

The Constitutional Court has a one-month deadline to prepare its ruling, after which, 100 deputies' votes are needed to unseat the president, which Georgian Dream comes short of. The part of the parliamentary opposition considers the initiation of the impeachment procedure of the president as an obstacle to the country's European integration and sabotage and does not support it.

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