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Salome Zurabishvili, September 12, 2018, Photo: Screengrab from Imedi TV video

Candidate Zurabishvili Vows to Stay “Principled, Independent” if elected

Salome Zurabishvili, whose presidential candidacy has been endorsed by the ruling Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia party, said on September 12 during her campaign meeting in Kutaisi, Georgia’s second largest city, that she would remain independent in her decisions.

“There are matters of principle, red lines and nobody will ever be able to cross them, no matter who they are… I will be principled and independent,” she said during an indoor meeting with supporters in the local theater building.

Zurabishvili named Georgia’s independence and territorial integrity, as well as withdrawal of Russian troops from the country among her top priorities. “I am coming to use my multi-year experience for the benefit of my country, for overcoming the challenges faced by Georgia,” she noted.

Kakha Kaladze, Tbilisi Mayor and the ruling party’s Secretary General, who also attended the meeting, said that it was important for the ruling team to have healthy political processes and pluralism in the country.

“This is the key reason and principle why Georgian Dream did not name its presidential candidate for the 2018 elections,” Kaladze said, stressing the importance of “non-partisan” and “impartial” candidate and noting that “it will help clearly understand the President’s role and establish a correct tradition of presidency.”

Then he addressed Salome Zurabishvili: “Be sure that you will enjoy full support of our political team, Georgian Dream party and I am confident that you will definitely win.”

As the indoor meeting with Salome Zurabishvili was ongoing, protesters gathered outside, demanding explanations from the candidate over her controversial Russo-Georgian war-related remarks.

Zurabishvili, born to an immigrant family that fled Georgia in 1921, was invited to become the country’s Foreign Minister in March 2004 by then President Mikheil Saakashvili, but was sacked in October 2005 after a confrontation with the parliamentary majority. In 2006, she went into opposition and set up a party – Georgia’s Way, which she led until 2010.

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.

On October 28, Georgian citizens will elect their fifth president for a six-year term. This will be the last time that the head of state will be elected through direct ballot. According to the new constitution, which will enter into force following the presidential elections, the new President will be elected by the 300-member Electoral College for a term of five years.

The deadline for parties and initiative groups to apply to Georgia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) for candidate registration has expired on September 8 with a total of 46 nominees wishing to run in the elections.

This post is also available in: Georgian Russian

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