|Zourabichvili: democracy endangered in Georgia
Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli announced late on October 19 that he dismissed Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili, amid confrontations between the ex-Minister and the ruling National Movement party leadership. The Prime Minister said that the President and government have not yet decided who will replace Zourabichvili.
“We, including me and the President, had consultations regarding this issue today, all through the day. We have a very successful foreign policy course and this is thanks to the President, the government and our political team. Despite this fact, yesterday, the Parliament voiced very serious discontent regarding the leader of the Foreign Ministry… As a result, I have decided to dismiss the Foreign Minister,” Nogaideli said.
Thirty minutes earlier, before this announcement by the Prime Minister -when the Foreign Minister’s resignation was not yet announced – Salome Zourabichvili made a televised statement through the Rustavi 2 TV and urged the President to dissolve the Parliament and to call for early elections.
French-born Salome Zourabichvili, who has never been engaged in country’s internal political affairs, bitterly criticized the Parliament and the ruling party. She said that “groundless attacks and accusations” were made against. She also warned that a well-planned campaign of representatives of a “neo-communism system” would mean an end to the country’s democratic development.
“No one should believe that personal [disagreements] are the reason behind this [scandal]. This was a well-planned campaign, which started from the very first day [after taking over the Foreign Minister’s office last March]. Mines have been put down from the very first day, from the very first scandal, when I was blamed [by the Parliamentarians] for a delay in payment of Georgia’s debt to the UN – which had been accumulating for many years already… This was followed by many other groundless accusations,” Salome Zourabichvili said.
She said that certain forces in the Parliament were a driving force behind this campaign against her.
“It seems that my position, my speeches, my statements, my attempts to dismantle the corruption systems in a number of [Georgian] Embassies [abroad] was creating obstacles for many people. And I want to say that this well-planned, aggressive – I would say mutiny – is directed not only against me, but against the President. I informed the President today that I planned to make this speech tonight, so it will not be a surprise for him, although this does not mean that he fully shares my opinions,” she said.
Zourabichvili said that this is very difficult moment for President Saakashvili, “because he has no tools to solve this [crisis] properly.” “The only right way to overcome the current crisis is to dissolve the Parliament and to call early elections,” she added.
“Today we are witnessing a historic moment. This is the last flounder of the old system, of the communism cancer. These people represent the old system, which is trying to survive. We should either stand firm, or step back. If we step back, a movment backwards will be launched, which means turning from the democratic way of development. Hence this is a historic moment not only for Georgia, but for entire region, because Georgia is a perfect example how the country tries to overcome its totalitarian past… If we fail to fully materialize our [Rose] Revolution’s ideas, everything will move backwards and everyone, including the U.S. and Europe, should realize this. In this case, neo-communism will have a new shape and the old system will win, hence Russia will win,” Zourabichvili said.
“If you believe in what I have said, if you think that the Georgian democracy is endangered please, let’s assemble at the Tbilisi Hippodrome tomorrow [on October 20] at 1 pm just for five minutes. Of course this is not a call for a new revolution,” she stated addressing the population.
Shortly after this statement Prime Minister announced about his decision to sack Zourabichvili. PM Nogaideli said that her statements came as a surprise.
“Today Salome Zourabichvili made very many surprising statements, which I did not expect from her – it is very regretful when a person makes statements like these after losing a position [in the cabinet],” PM Nogaideli said at a news conference.
Salome Zourabichvili, who served as French Ambassador to Georgia, was appointed as Georgia’s Foreign Minister last March after she was granted Georgian citizenship by President Saakashvili. Last year Saakashvili said that he even discussed the issue of Zourabichvili’s appointment with French President Jacque Chirac and Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin.
Zourabichvili said in her televised address on October 19 that she will send a letter of gratitude to President Jacque Chirac on October 20. She said that the French leadership’s consent to appoint her as Georgia’s Foreign Minister was “a historic gesture by France.”
She also said that she has no plans to return to France. “I am staying in Georgia; I have chosen the way of politics… I will continue to work here,” she stated, however she did not specify her future plans in Georgia.