The ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia will endorse the candidacy of Salome Zurabishvili for the October 28 presidential elections, Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze announced on September 9.
Speaking at a special press briefing at the GDDG headquarters following the political council meeting today, Irakli Kobakhidze said the ruling majority would follow its earlier announced plan and not field a candidate for the elections.
“Georgia is a parliamentary republic, where power is concentrated between the parliament and the government, where the president enjoys only representative functions; and in this system, the president has to be above partisan politics, has to be unbiased and should not represent the interests of the ruling party and the opposition, but rather be a defender of people’s interests,” Kobakhidze added.
Kobakhidze stressed the GDDG “has many decent leaders” within its ranks, but a partisan president would go against the “tradition of European parliamentary republics.” “We believe that in order to ensure maximum political pluralism, considering the country’s interests, we need to let the presidency to an independent candidate,” he added.
Kobakhidze then said the political council, the party’s main governing body chaired by GDDG leader Bidzina Ivanishvili, decided to endorse the candidacy of Salome Zurabishvili.
“Salome Zurabishvili is a representative of a prominent Georgian family, a descendant of Niko Nikoladze and Ivane Zurabishvili; she has an exceptional diplomatic experience – withdrawal of Russian bases from Georgia is associated to her name; for several years, she was also ardently opposing Saakashvili’s regime in defense of justice,” Irakli Kobakhidze underscored.
“We think Salome Zurabishvili can establish a new tradition in our constitutional system, she can fulfil the president’s functions not in the interests of an individual party or a political group, but based on the interests of the country and the society; we call on the Georgian society to support her candidacy,” the Speaker added.
Kobakhidze touched upon Zurabishvili’s controversial Russo-Georgian war-related remarks, saying the candidate’s clarifications over her original statement “corresponds” to the position of the ruling party.
“Salome Zurabishvili underscored that in 2008 the aggressor, and therefore the one who initiated the war, was the Russian Federation; the processes in August 2008 followed the Russian scenario, but an essential prerequisite for this scenario to happen was the actions that unfortunately were carried out by Saakashvili’s administration,” he noted.
“If not his precarious approach, if not [his] foolishness, the Russian Federation would not be able to implement its scenario; this was what Zurabishvili clarified, and this, of course, entirely corresponds to our position,” Kobakhidze stressed.
Salome Zurabishvili commented on the announcement briefly, telling reporters that she was very happy about the decision and was grateful for GDDG’s support.
“This is a very positive development for me, I think it is also a right and a democratic decision for the ruling party and for the country [as a whole}; I expect to win the polls already from this evening,” the presidential-hopeful noted.
In November 2010, Zurabishvili announced about “temporarily quitting” politics and left the country after she was appointed as a coordinator of the United Nations panel of experts on Iran. Zurabishvili returned to Georgia to run for the presidency in 2013, but her bid was rejected by the Central Election Commission on the grounds of having dual citizenship.
In 2016, Zurabishvili was elected a member of the Parliament of Georgia from Mtatsminda single-mandate district in Tbilisi. She ran for the seat as an independent, but was politically backed by the GDDG party, which decided not to field a candidate against her.
Although Zurabishvili is outside GDDG’s 116-member majority group and maintains the status of an independent lawmaker, her voting record and public statements have been closely aligned with that of the ruling party lawmakers.