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First Ever Democratic Transition of Presidential Power in Georgia

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, December 5
For the first time in the Georgian history, outgoing and incoming presidents met on Tuesday and agreed about the procedures of power transition.

Outgoing President Giorgi Margvelashvili, who wished to set a precedent of the president leaving its post in Georgia peacefully and democratically, met with the incoming President Salome Zurabishvili in front of the Avlabari presidential palace to greet her.

Both of them told the media that it was a democratic power transition Georgia has finally achieved.

The meeting seemed friendly despite the fact Zurabishvili, as an independent lawmaker, has been critical to Margvelashvili as the president, when the latter used to veto the bills offered by the government.

Both Zurabishvili and Margvelashvili became presidents with the help of the Georgian Dream ruling party.

However, Margvelashvili’s relations with the ruling party founder Bidzina Ivanishvili went wrong shortly after his election in the role.

“Initially, before the elections, I was against living in the Avlabari palace, because of my [negative] attitudes to Mikheil Saakashvili. However, after the elections, I changed my mind as the controversy emerged immediately.

“I needed a symbol that everyone is not run by a single person [referring to billionaire Ivanishvili, who was against the president’s being in the palace built by Saakashvili],” Margvelashvili said.

Ivanishvili stated that Margvelashvili “ totally changed his attitudes and mood” after being elected in the role.

The worsened relations with Ivanishvili automatically strained ruling party members’ relations to Margvelashvili.

Before nominating as the presidential candidate by Ivanishvili in 2013, Margvelashvili served as the minister of education under the Georgian Dream leadership.

Earlier philosopher Margvelashvili was engaged with educational activities.

Zourabichvili,66, was born in Paris in a family of Georgian political emigrants, who went there after 1921 when the Russian Red Army invaded Georgia and ended the three-year existence of the First Democratic Republic of Georgia.

The first time Zurabishvili visited Georgia was in 1986 during a break from her job at the French Embassy in Washington.

Zurabishvili was Head of the Division of International and Strategic Issues of National Defence General Secretariat of France in 2001-2003. She was appointed as the Ambassador of France to Georgia in 2003.

Mikheil Saakashvili, the 3rd President of Georgia nominated her as Foreign Minister in his new government and Zurabishvili was the first female to be appointed to this post in Georgia on March 18, 2004.

She was fired by former Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli in October 2005 after a series of disputes with members of parliament.

Shortly before her dismissal was announced, Zurabishvili resigned from the French foreign service, which had continued to pay her a salary while she was a minister, and announced that she would remain in Georgia to go to politics.

In November 2005 she set up the organization Salome Zurabishvili’s Movement. In January 2006 she announced the establishment of a new political party Georgia's Way.

On November 12, 2010, Zurabishvili announced her withdrawal from the leadership of Georgia's Way and continued her career abroad, as a coordinator of the UN panel of experts on Iran.

In the 2016 parliamentary elections in Georgia, now under the Georgian Dream leadership, Zurabishvili participated as Tbilisi Mtatsminda District majoritarian candidate and won the race, took her seat in the legislative body. In the district, the Georgian Dream did not name its candidate.

Now Zurabishvili says that she will not live in the Avlabari palace and her residency will be on the Atoneli Street in Tbilisi, the former palace of Georgian elite Orbeliani family which was renovated by the Georgian Dream leadership for the country’s presidents. The place where Margvelashvili should have lived but later changed his mind.

Georgian first President Zviad Gamsakhurdia was found dead in unclear circumstances; many still speculate that he was killed. The second President Eduard Shevardnadze was thrown down in 2003 and the third President Mikheil Saakashvili is wanted for several crimes by the current Georgian Dream leadership.