POLITICS
Salome Zourabichvili as Independent Candidate
30 May, 2013
Exclusive Interview with Ex-Minister of Georgia

Salome Zourabichvili, who intends to finalize her decision to present her candidacy for the presidential elections in October of 2013, talked to Georgian Journal and declared that she is “thinking about her candidacy for the next presidential election as an independent candidate”. At the same time, she denied rumors about establishing new political party. “I founded one political Party “the Way of Georgia” in 2006, which has kept its line and orientation over these
very difficult years and which now continues without me. I have said about the President’s role that he/she should not be identified with one given Party, and should not represent a single Party. I am no longer the leader of my Party, where I have only an honorary title, but would not think about joining another one or creating a nes one. I do not believe in politicians changing parties as they change shirts, which has been a bad habit for some people in Georgian politics.”
Q. What can you say about your candidacy for presidential elections?
A. At this stage, when the dates for the next presidential election are not yet set, it is too early to register such a decision formally. It will depend on many factors, first of which is the reaction of population not to me personally, but to my conception of what a President should be. At this stage my candidature is a statement and a message. A statement that one cannot, especially in the country that has gone though decades of Communism and 20 years of post-Soviet neo-totalitarian rule, present the presidential election as a “fait accompli” and deny the voters the right to choose, the right to elect, which is at the core of democracy. I also believe that the voters should not choose only between the outgoing national movement and the new Majority. I think time has come to overcome this kind of division and offer more pluralistic choices to Georgian population. In the new constitution, the President is not a political ruler, he should represent the nation and the people and be a force of balance and stability.
Q. What is your main motivation?
A. My main motivation is to see that Georgia finally enters the new phase of its political development and realizes that the institution of Presidency, deformed and corrupted by Saakashvili’s one-man-one-party rule, is something different. A President should not be an additional division in a country that has witnessed too many disasters. He or she should represent all Georgians, of all origins and faith, should reunite Georgians from the ones who live in foreign Diasporas and the ones, who live in the country. This motivation was reinforced by the events of 17 May. I consider that Georgian values weres and will be based on the concept of tolerance and pluralism if Georgia wants to be true to its identity. That is the lesson of Georgian History. That is why Georgia is the only country, which, according to the Jews does not have to repent or say “never again” because discrimination never happened in this country. I think that recent events, similar to what is happening in other European countries, deserve attention and caution so that Georgia does not lose its identity, its essential values while erroneously thinking that it is defending them.
Q. Did negotiations with Bidzina Ivanishvili provoke your decision or it was your personal decision?
A.I did not have negotiations as such with the Prime Minister. We had a series of meetings to discuss the principle of my participation in Georgian politics and building of the state. We never discussed concrete propositions, but exchanged many ideas and possibilities. I have never been a member of the new Coalition, but have always supported it as the ultimate opposition to Saakashvili. You will remember that I was one of the leaders of the opposition in the previous years and I declared my full support to Ivanishvili since his appearance on political arena. I am still supporting him and his majority, while being critical in a constructive way when I see things that could be more effective. I do not believe that one political force, despite the support it is getting from the population, should concentrate all powers in one place. Balance is essential to preserve democracy. It is because the Saakashvili regime obstructed opment and realizes that the institution of Presidency, deformed and corrupted by Saakashvili’s one-man-one-party rule, is something different. A President should not be an additional division in a country that has witnessed too many disasters. He or she should represent all Georgians, of all origins and faith, should reunite Georgians from the ones who live in foreign Diasporas and the ones, who live in the country. This motivation was reinforced by the events of 17 May. I consider that Georgian values weres and will be based on the concept of tolerance and pluralism if Georgia wants to be true to its identity. That is the lesson of Georgian History. That is why Georgia is the only country, which, according to the Jews does not have to repent or say “never again” because discrimination never happened in this country. I think that recent events, similar to what is happening in other European countries, deserve attention and caution so that Georgia does not lose its identity, its essential values while erroneously thinking that it is defending them.
Q. Did negotiations with Bidzina Ivanishvili provoke your decision or it was your personal decision?
A.I did not have negotiations as such with the Prime Minister. We had a series of meetings to discuss the principle of my participation in Georgian politics and building of the state. We never discussed concrete propositions, but exchanged many ideas and possibilities. I have never been a member of the new Coalition, but have always supported it as the ultimate opposition to Saakashvili. You will remember that I was one of the leaders of the opposition in the previous years and I declared my full support to Ivanishvili since his appearance on political arena. I am still supporting him and his majority, while being critical in a constructive way when I see things that could be more effective. I do not believe that one political force, despite the support it is getting from the population, should concentrate all powers in one place. Balance is essential to preserve democracy. It is because the Saakashvili regime obstructed this balance to be established as early as the local elections in 2006, which resulted in a full-fledged authoritarian regime. The Presidential election is the test where the balance, the emergence of alternative independent forces should be allowed so that various voices of public can find their expression.
Q. How do you estimate your chances at the presidential elections?
A. It is very difficult to estimate anything since I do not know about any serious opinion poll and it is too early for that. I have received a lot of support through social networks, but I know that this is not enought. I am also very candid about the fact that if I go all the way, I will be competing with the candidates from the ruling Party, from the National Movement and eventually, others as well; they will have much more resources - both financial and administrative - than I have. I still hope that this could be a chance to hold really free and competitive elections, to prove that the National Movement does not represent 40 % of population, who support it, as it claims; to demonstrate that European values have a strong support in the Country notwithstanding the decline of UNM. More important than my personal chances in these elections, are the chances for this country to make use of these elections to the progress on the way to real Democracy and consolidation of its institutions.
Q. What can you say about the presidential candidates?
A. I will not talk personally about any of them. In respect of political appreciation, the candidate of “Georgian Dream”, according to his own self-characterization, is only «the candidate of the Georgian Dream” and he has declared that he considers that this is enough to win. I dare to disagree with that assumption and think that in order to win, in a democratic country, one has to win the hearts and souls of the electorate. That is a big difference. As to the other candidates, including the UNM’s candidate (whose chances are extremely limited if other candidates are allowed to play), I think that my political orientation, as a definitely pro European and pro Georgian leader, puts us on different starting grounds. I consider that one has to talk with Russians and I did talk to them with some past success in that regard when we finalized the withdrawal of the Russian troops from their bases. But I think that the context and format of any likely negotiation should be arranged at right time and place. Georgia does not have to choose between talking to Russia and following its European path; it has to do both on its own terms.
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