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Zourabichvili Returns from Europe, Gears up for Local Elections
/ 30 Jan.'06 / 18:46
Civil Georgia

Georgia’s ex-Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili is back in the Georgian media headlines after a six-week long trip to Europe.
In separate interviews, published by several Georgian newspapers, as well as news agencies, Salome Zourabichvili said that she used the European venue to deliver a strong message that stability in the South Caucasus is of vital importance for Europe, as well as to finalize her political platform through which she plans to run in local self-governance elections, scheduled for this autumn in Georgia.

A French-born career diplomat, Zourabichvili was invited to become Georgia's Foreign Minister by President Saakashvili in March 2004, but was sacked in October, 2005 after a confrontation with the parliamentary majority.

After her dismissal Zourabichvili went into the opposition and started to gear up for a new political career in Georgia. In November she set up an organization – “Salome Zourabichvili’s Movement” - which is now slated to be transformed into a political party under the name “Initiative for Democracy.”   

“I’ve never had the ambition to [have] a political party, but I could not avoid it. You know local elections will be held this autumn so a political party is necessary,” Zourabichvili said in an interview with RFE/RL Georgian service on January 30.

Zourabichvili also said that she plans to present a comprehensive political platform for the new party this week at a presentation in Tbilisi.

“I came back from Europe with my own platform. People should know what I want. Of course it is good when it is said that I am I am European - not corrupt… I know the strong elements on which my popularity is built but it is not enough and it is time for me to respond to it,” she said in an interview with 24 Saati (24 Hours) published on January 30.

She also said that her party will be “more public-oriented and less confrontational.”

But she expressed concern that the authorities plan implement some legal restrictions for registering candidates which will prevent her from running in the local elections. But MP from the ruling National Movement party Pavle Kublashvili, who chairs the parliamentary Committee for Regional Policy and Self-Governance Issues, denied that any legal restrictions are being planned.

“The only legal restriction is that a candidate must have lived in Georgia for the last two years before the elections. No other new initiative has been introduced,” MP Kublashvili told Civil Georgia on January 30.

President Saakashvili granted Georgian citizenship to Salome Zourabichvili in March, 2004.

“One of the reasons behind my European trip was to participate in several forums, including in Monaco, Paris and Vienna. I also had meetings with a group of European parliamentarians in Brussels, which was their initiative. In Europe, I was represented as a public figure and not as a representative of the opposition… For me, the most important thing is to show Georgia’s importance to Europe - after this Europe will itself decide who to support,” Zourabichvili said in an interview with daily Rezonansi (Resonance) published on January 30.

She also said that she has met with Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, in Brussels.

Zourabichvili said that in Germany she held talks with representatives of local foundations, including with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and Heinrich Böll Foundation.

She said that her trip to Europe was a test for her as well to see whether her popularity was strong enough in Georgia.

“One of the reasons behind my trip to Europe was to see whether  public support was more emotional, which would have passed after some time, or whether it was something deeper and stronger. I am glad that that this [support] has not disappeared over these six weeks,” Zourabichvili told RFE/RL Georgian service.

According to a recent public opinion survey issued by the Tbilisi-based Georgian Opinion Research Business International (GORBI) in late December, Salome Zourabichvili was third on a list of candidates the public would vote for if there were a presidential election in the country.  According to the poll, Zourabichvili would garner 4% of the total votes. Mikheil Saakashvili led this poll with 60% followed by MP Koba Davitashvili, the leader of opposition Conservative Party – 5%. Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze was fourth with 3%.

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