Salome Zourabichvili

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Salome Zourabichvili
სალომე ზურაბიშვილი
Victory Day - Europe Day 2020 Address Photo of Salome Zourabichvili (cropped).jpg
5th President of Georgia
Assumed office
16 December 2018
Prime MinisterMamuka Bakhtadze
Giorgi Gakharia
Irakli Garibashvili
Preceded byGiorgi Margvelashvili
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
20 March 2004 – 18 October 2005
PresidentMikheil Saakashvili
Preceded byTedo Japaridze
Succeeded byGela Bezhuashvili
Leader of The Way of Georgia
In office
11 March 2006 – 12 November 2010
Preceded byParty established
Succeeded byKakha Seturidze
Member of the Parliament of Georgia
In office
18 November 2016 – 22 December 2018
Preceded byZaza Papuashvili
Succeeded byLado Kakhadze
Parliamentary groupIndependent
ConstituencyMtatsminda
Personal details
Born (1952-03-18) 18 March 1952 (age 69)
Paris, France
NationalityGeorgian
Political partyWay of Georgia (2006–2011)[1]
Independent (2011–present)
Spouse(s)
  • Nicolas Gorjestani
    (m. 1981; div. 1992)
  • Janri Kashia
    (m. 1993; died 2012)
Children2
ResidenceOrbeliani Palace, Tbilisi, Georgia
EducationSciences Po
Columbia University
Signature

Salome Zourabichvili[a] (Georgian: სალომე ზურაბიშვილი, [sɑlɔˈmɛ zurɑbiʃˈvili]; born 18 March 1952) is a French–Georgian politician and former diplomat who currently serves as the fifth President of Georgia, in office since December 2018. She is the first woman to be elected as Georgia's president,[2] a position she will occupy for a term of six years. As a result of constitutional changes coming into effect in 2024, Zourabichvili is expected to be Georgia's last popularly elected president; all future heads of state are to be elected indirectly by a parliamentary college of electors.

Zourabichvili was born in Paris into a family of Georgian immigrants. She joined the French diplomatic service in the 1970s and went on to occupy a variety of senior diplomatic positions for three decades. From 2003 to 2004, she served as the Ambassador of France to Georgia. In 2004, by mutual agreement between France and Georgia, she accepted Georgian nationality and became the Foreign Minister of Georgia. During her tenure at the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), she negotiated a treaty that led to the withdrawal of Russian forces from the undisputed parts of the Georgian mainland. She has also served at the UN Security Council’s Iran Sanctions Committee as the Coordinator of the Panel of Experts.

After a falling out with Georgia's then President Mikheil Saakashvili, in 2006 Zourabichvili founded The Way of Georgia political party, which she led until 2010. Ultimately, she was elected to the Georgian Parliament in 2016 as an independent; she vacated her parliamentary seat after being sworn in as President. During the 2018 Georgian presidential election, Zourabichvili ran as an independent candidate and was supported by the governing Georgian Dream party. She prevailed in a run-off vote against Grigol Vashadze.

Early life and education[edit]

Zourabichvili was born in Paris into a family of Georgian political emigrants. Her father, Levan (1906–1975), was an engineer and served as a chairman of the Georgian diaspora in Paris. His grandfather was Niko Nikoladze, a prominent Georgian social democrat, a scion of the noble Nikoladze family and a member of Meore Dasi, a collection of Georgian liberal intelligentsia.[3] Her mother, Zeinab Kedia (1921–2016), was related by marriage to Noe Ramishvili, the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Georgia.[4] Zourabichvili has one brother, Otar.[4] She studied at the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), and began a master's program at Columbia University in New York in the academic year of 1972–1973, taking courses with Zbigniew Brzezinski. Zourabichvili is a cousin of Hélène Carrère d'Encausse, a distinguished Franco-Georgian historian who serves as the head of the Académie française.

Career[edit]

Salome Zourabichvili in June 2004.

Career in diplomacy[edit]

Zourabichvili abandoned her studies and joined the French foreign service in 1974, becoming a career diplomat with postings to Rome, the United Nations, Brussels, Washington, etc. The first time Zourabichvili visited Georgia was in 1986 during a break from her job at the French Embassy in Washington.

Salomé Zourabichvili was Head of the Division of International and Strategic Issues of National Defence General Secretariat of France in 2001–2003.[5] She was appointed the Ambassador of France to Georgia in 2003.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, 2004–2005[edit]

Zourabichvili with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2004

President Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia nominated her as Minister of Foreign Affairs in his new government. Zourabichvili became the first woman to be appointed to this post in Georgia on 18 March 2004.[6]

Zourabichvili was the Coordinator of the Panel of Experts assisting the UN Security Council’s Iran Sanctions Committee.[7]

As foreign minister of Georgia, Zourabichvili was the main negotiator of the agreement for the withdrawal of Russian military bases from the territory of Georgia, which was signed with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov on 19 May 2005.[8] During her tenure as Foreign Minister, the "New Group of Friends of Georgia" was created, bringing together Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Poland to help Georgia's aspirations towards NATO and foster European integration.

Zourabichvili was sacked by Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli late on 19 October 2005 after a series of disputes with members of Parliament.[9] She had also been heavily criticized by a number of Georgian ambassadors. Shortly before her dismissal was announced, Zourabichvili resigned from the French foreign service, which had continued to pay her a salary while she was minister, and announced that she would remain in Georgia to go into politics.

Political career[edit]

Zourabichvili with opposition leader Goga Khaindrava in 2009

In November 2005, Zourabichvili set up the organization 'Salomé Zourabichvili’s Movement'. In January 2006 she announced the establishment of a new political party Georgia's Way, criticizing the country's "de facto one-party system."[10] Although Zourabichvili enjoyed some degree of reputation in Georgia she was long unable to establish herself in the political field. At the city council elections in Tbilisi on 5 October 2006, only 2.77% of the constituency voted for her party. Six months before, an opinion poll conducted by the Georgian weekly Kviris Palitra suggested that she would garner 23.1% of the votes at presidential elections. Since October 2007, her party was part of the United Opposition alliance which nominated Zourabichvili as a Prospective Prime Minister in case of their candidate Levan Gachechiladze's victory in the January 2008 presidential election.

As part of a 2009 campaign of the Georgian opposition to force President Mikheil Saakashvili to resign, Zourabichvili led a protest march together with three other prominent opposition figures – Nino Burjanadze, David Gamkrelidze and Eka Beselia – in Tbilisi on 26 March 2009.[11]

On 12 November 2010, Zourabichvili announced her withdrawal from the leadership of Georgia's Way. She was succeeded by Kakha Seturidze.[12] After a two-year leave from politics, she publicly endorsed Georgian Dream ahead of the 2013 presidential elections.[13] Shortly after, Georgia's Central Election Commission refused to register her as a presidential candidate due to her dual Georgian-French citizenship.[14]

In the 8 October 2016 parliamentary elections Zourabichvili won a seat as an independent, representing the Mtatsminda district of Tbilisi. She became MP on 18 November. During her term as MP, She was Deputy chairwoman of parliamentary committee on Diaspora and Caucasus Issues. [15]

Candidate for the 2018 presidential election[edit]

On April 20, 2017, on TV Pirveli, in Diana Trapaidze's Daily News, Zurabishvili said that "nothing is out of the question" about her participation in the 2018 presidential elections. [43] At a briefing in her backyard on August 6, 2018, she voiced her desire to run in the election.

"This big responsibility is not only my responsibility. I owe it to my ancestors and to all those who declared independence 100 years ago and then could not revive that independence."

It was during this period that speculation emerged that, despite her status as an independent candidate, she would likely be backed by the Georgian Dream team.

On August 16, 2018, Zurabishvili officially launched her presidential campaign from the house-museum of her famous ancestor, Niko Nikoladze, in the village of Didi Jikhaishi, Imereti region. She outlined the main vision which she planned to implement as President of Georgia.

On August 23, 2018, two months before the elections, Zurabishvili relinquished her French citizenship. This decree was signed by the Prime Minister of France and the Minister of Internal Affairs on the basis of Zurabishvili's application. She made a statement in this regard on August 30, noting that she had to renounce her French citizenship to participate in the presidential election. According to the Constitution of Georgia, dual citizens cannot hold the office of President, Prime Minister or Speaker of Parliament.

On September 9, 2018, the Georgian Dream party announced its support for Zurabishvili's independent candidacy for the presidential elections, at a briefing by the Speaker of the Parliament, Irakli Kobakhidze, at the party's central office.

On October 28, 2018, the presidential elections were held. Zurabishvili received 38.64% of the vote (615,572 votes) and secured a place in the second round of elections against the United Opposition candidate. [48] The Georgian media thought that as an independent presidential candidate she would withdraw her candidacy. On October 30, in her first public statement since the first round, Zurabishvili stated:

"I am ready for the second round, for the fight. I believe that you are well aware that today is not a choice between two candidates or two parties, but a choice between two Georgias. We are on the side of the truth, the future of Europe and Georgia."

The second round of the presidential election was held on November 28. Zurabishvili received 59.52% of the vote (1,147,625 votes), defeating her opponent Grigol Vasadze to become the first female president in the history of Georgia.


Presidency[edit]

Zourabichvili addressing the nation on the anniversary of the April 9 tragedy, when Soviet troops crushed demonstrators demanding independence

Inauguration[edit]

On December 16, the inauguration of the 5th President of Georgia was held at the Erekle II Palace in Telavi. Zurabishvili wore a white and red ensemble, the colors of the Georgian flag, to the ceremony, designed by Jaba Diasamidze, a Georgian designer working in France. The president-elect was taken to the palace by car, and her children - Teimuraz and Ketevan Gorgestani - drove her to the red carpet.

The event was attended by a total of 1800 guests. According to the decision of the organizers, all guests, except those with health problems, stood on their feet. Among those present at the inauguration were the 4th President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili and his wife, the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II, the President of Armenia, Armen Sargsyan, the former President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy and representatives of other delegations.

As President, Zourabichvili inherited a new Constitution that entered into force the day of her inauguration and which significantly removed several powers from the Presidency, concentrating them within Parliament and the Prime Minister's Office. However, this did not stop her from using her position to call for historically-important decisions, including a new investigation into the controversial death of Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the country's first President, in 1993.

Domestic policy[edit]

Zurabishvili's first annual report as President was presented to the 9th convocation of Parliament on March 6, 2019. [120] The European Georgia faction did not attend the president's speech. In her speech, Zurabishvili focused on her visits abroad.

On April 20, 2021, Zurabishvili hosted an official dinner in honor of the President of the European Council, Charles Michel. Representatives of the ruling team as well as the opposition parties who signed the Charles Michel document Charles Michel document[clarify]were present at the dinner at the Presidential Palace. The dinner was attended by EU Ambassador to Georgia Carl Hartzel and US Ambassador Kelly Degnan. By signing the document of Charles Michel, the representatives of the opposition and the government made political concessions.

President and the Coronavirus pandemic[edit]

On March 10, 2020, President Zurabishvili canceled scheduled visits to Bulgaria, Belgium, and Ukraine due to the coronavirus threat. [142] On March 21 of the same year, she declared a state of emergency in the country. The state of emergency was to last for a month, although on April 21, 2020, the president signed an extension until May 21.

On December 22, 2020, Zurabishvili hosted Hans Kluge, Director of the WHO Regional Office for Europe, at the Orbeliani Palace. During the meeting, the health measures taken by Georgia during the pandemic and issues related to the COVID-19 vaccine were discussed. On January 26, 2021, Zurabishvili met with Toivo Klaar, Co-Chair of the Geneva International Talks, EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the Crisis in Georgia.

Foreign policy[edit]

Salome Zourabichvili, Maia Sandu, Volodymyr Zelensky and Charles Michel during the 2021 International Conference in Batumi.

As President of Georgia, Zurabishvili has visited many countries where she has represented her homeland and advocated for its interests, and met with foreign leaders. On September 25, 2019, Zurabishvili addressed the 74th session of the UN General Assembly in New York. In her speech, she spoke about the occupation, the ongoing political processes in Georgia, healthcare and climate change.

In January 2020 she visited Belgium, and in February she visited France and Afghanistan. She has also visited the leaders of Ukraine, Armenia, Germany, Poland, Latvia, Azerbaijan and many other countries.

Residence and funding[edit]

Official presidential residence at the Orbeliani Palace in Tbilisi

Zourabichvili announced during the presidential campaign that, if elected, she would not work from the Avlabari Presidential Palace, opened in 2009 during the Presidency of Mikheil Saakashvili. After her election, she met with the outgoing fourth President in the Avlabari Palace, but her administration moved into the Orbeliani Palace on Atoneli street in Central Tbilisi.[16] On December 18, 2018 she visited the Atoneli residence for the first time. The media met her at the entrance, emphasising the fact that she walked to the office.[17]

Besides moving to the smaller residence, Zourabichvili's office faced significant budget cutbacks. According to the 2019 budget, funding for the presidential administration is being reduced by just over ₾ 3.5 million. As a result, the vast majority of former employees were fired with only 60 of them remaining in administration.[18]

Changes have also led to abolishing the presidential fund which amounted to ₾5 million and funded scholarships, educational programs and various other projects. This decision has been widely criticized with former President Giorgi Margvelashvili and former First Lady Maka Chichua campaigning for it to remain.[19]

Political positions[edit]

Women's rights and equality[edit]

As the first popularly elected woman president of Georgia, Zourabichvili has advocated for women's rights and equality through social media and from political tribunes. She has organised a number of meetings and attended conferences aiming for the empowerment of women and young girls. On October 5th 2019, she hosted a meeting of women leaders from Georgia, Belgium and France, later saying on Twitter: "The role of women in our society is crucial and their contribution to our political, cultural, entrepreneurial and educational circles is key to our development."[20]

LGBTQ rights[edit]

Amid the controversy around the 2019 Tbilisi Pride Parade, Zourabichvili said: “I am everyone’s president, regardless of sexual orientation or religious affiliation. No human should be discriminated against. I must also emphasize that our country is dealing with enough controversies and doesn’t need any further provocation from any side of the LGBTQ debate." This comment was met with criticism by LGBTQ organizations across the country, as well as some members of the civil society. Tbilisi Pride co-founder Tamaz Sozashvili wrote: "How can she consider peaceful citizens and aggressive fundamentalists as equal sides?" She made no response to the criticism.[21]

Following attacks on the offices of Tbilisi Pride by anti-LGBT protesters on July 5, 2021, in which a number of journalists, activists and passersby were injured, Zourabichvili condemned the violence and visited injured journalists in hospital.[22] She subsequently tweeted:

"Violence is unacceptable. I condemn today’s events and any form of violence over difference of ideas or gender identity. Everyone has the constitutional right to express their opinion. I call on all to act within the Constitution and not provoke violence through radical actions."[23]

Monarchy[edit]

In the course of the 2008 Georgian presidential election, Zourabichvili and many other opposition politicians voiced support for the establishment of a constitutional monarchy under the Bagrationi dynasty, which the Patriarch of Georgia, Ilia II, had advocated.[24]

Personal life[edit]

Salomé Zourabichvili was married to the Georgian journalist Janri Kashia (1939–2012). She has two children, Kethevane and Teimuraz,[25] from her first marriage to Iranian-American economist Nicolas Gorjestani. Zourabichvili is the cousin of French historian Hélène Carrère d'Encausse. Besides Georgian and French, she is also fluent in English, and is conversational in German and Italian.[26]

Works[edit]

  • Salomé Zourabichvili (2006). Une femme pour deux pays. Grasset, ISBN 2-246-69561-9
  • Salomé Zourabichvili (2007). Fermer Yalta, Cahiers de Chaillot, Institut de sécurité de l'Union européenne
  • Salomé Zourabichvili (2008). Les cicatrices des Nations : L'Europe malade de ses frontières. Bourin, ISBN 978-2-84941-075-2
  • Salomé Zourabichvili (2009). La tragédie géorgienne. Grasset
  • Salomé Zourabichvili (2011). L'exigence démocratique. Bourin éditeur

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Zourabichvili uses the French transliteration of her surname; English transliteration is Zurabishvili

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Presidential Candidate Apologizes for Unethical Address to Reporters". Georgia Today on the Web.
  2. ^ In her capacity as Speaker of Parliament, Nino Burjanadze briefly served as acting president on two occasions
  3. ^ Mchedlishvili, David A. (2012). "ლევან ზურაბიშვილი (Levan Zurabishvili)" (in Georgian). National Parliamentary Library of Georgia. Retrieved 9 December 2018.
  4. ^ a b "პირველი ქართული ემიგრაციის წარმომადგენელი ზეინაბ კედია გარდაიცვალა (Zeinab Kedia, the first Georgian emigration representative, died)" (in Georgian). Newposts.ge. 20 February 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2018.
  5. ^ Alexander Mikaberidze (6 February 2015). Historical Dictionary of Georgia. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 695–. ISBN 978-1-4422-4146-6.
  6. ^ Henry Foy (25 October 2018), Frenchwoman frontrunner to become Georgia’s next president Financial Times.
  7. ^ Biographical dictionary
  8. ^ A Georgian victory as Russia will quit 2 bases New York Times, 31 May 2005.
  9. ^ Georgia, Civil. "Civil.Ge - Foreign Minister Zourabichvili Sacked". www.civil.ge.
  10. ^ Quentin Peel and Isabel Gorst (31 October 2007), Liberal laboratory at Russia’s door Financial Times.
  11. ^ Georgian Opposition Mulls More Radical Forms Of Protest Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 27 May 2009.
  12. ^ "The Messenger - Opposition Leader takes UN Security Council job". www.messenger.com.ge.
  13. ^ Former Georgian Foreign Minister Zurabishvili Endorses Saakashvili Rival Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 12 July 2012.
  14. ^ Georgia Election Board Rejects Former Foreign Minister Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 3 September 2013.
  15. ^ Liz Fuller (1 November 2016), Will Georgia's Ruling Party Use Super-Majority For Common Good Or To Further Own Interests? Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 3 September 2013.
  16. ^ "Where Will Georgia's New President Live?". Georgiatoday.ge. 29 November 2018. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  17. ^ "Salome Zurabishvili arrives at Atoneli Presidential Palace". 1tv.ge. 18 December 2018. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  18. ^ "New Georgian president will have less funding: details on the inauguration and new residence". jam-news.net. 4 December 2018. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  19. ^ "Margvelashvili Calls on Gov't Not to Abolish Presidential Fund". Georgiatoday.ge. 10 December 2018. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  20. ^ @Zourabichvili_S (5 October 2019). "Today, I had the pleasure to host women leaders from Georgia, Belgium, and France at the @GeorgiaPres Palace" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  21. ^ Alex Cooper (19 June 2019). "Organizers of Georgia's first Pride defiant amid threats of violence". washingtonblade.com.
  22. ^ "Media Attacked, Hospitalized While Covering Violent Protests in Tbilisi | Voice of America - English". www.voanews.com. Retrieved 7 July 2021.
  23. ^ "https://twitter.com/zourabichvili_s/status/1412078793435582467". Twitter. Retrieved 7 July 2021. External link in |title= (help)
  24. ^ Civil Georgia (8 October 2007). "Civil.Ge - Politicians Comment on Constitutional Monarchy Proposal". www.civil.ge.
  25. ^ "Son of Georgian presidential candidate Salome Zourabichvili calls rival to debate". English Jamnews. 22 November 2018. Retrieved 14 March 2021.
  26. ^ "Official web site of the President of Georgia". president.gov.ge. Retrieved 14 March 2021.

External links[edit]

Media related to Salome Zurabishvili at Wikimedia Commons

Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Foreign Affairs
2004–2005
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of Georgia
2018–present
Incumbent