Zurabishvili sparked controversy by making statements seeming to accuse Georgia’s previous government of starting the 2008 war with Russia. In addition, her anticlerical statements have triggered public criticism and disapproval from the powerful clergy. It cost her votes in the first round of the presidential election, which Zurabishvili has won with a thin margin against Grigol Vashadze, of the United National Movement.
The second round of the election will see the GD government crossing swords with the now-united opposition. Vashadze won in all the big cities in Georgia and got the foreign vote, including that of the Georgians who voted in France. His success exceeded expectations, and provided a strong base to challenge Zurabishvili. The GD’s leader, former Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, announced electoral mobilisation to support Zurabishvili, increasing her chances of winning over GD’s base. But her close association with the GD has harmed her reputation as an independent. At the same time, three opposition parties have come together to support Vashadze: the opposition coalition led by the United National Movement (UNM); European Georgia, a party that broke off the UNM in 2017 and has 20 seats in Parliament; and the Republican party, a former member of the GD coalition with a liberal political platform.
Do you see Georgia's accession to EU and NATO as a possible scenario for the country?
Georgia has made significant progress in transforming from a fragile state to one that is successfully reducing petty corruption, modernising state institutions and services, and has a vibrant civil society. Signing an Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU in 2014 marked an important benchmark, providing framework for deeper integration with the EU. The EU is now Georgia’s largest trade partner and the largest source of foreign direct investment. In addition, Georgia was awarded with the Schengen Visa Free regime in 2017, allowing for easier people-to-people interaction. Georgia has been pursuing what its government dubbed as "irreversible Europeanization", a policy direction that has also been included in the new version of the Constitution. At the same time, it will require more work to advance with the internal reforms for Europeanization to be successful. The Freedom House report "Nations in Transit", set the democracy score for Georgia at 4.68, classifying it as "transitional government". According to the report, all indicators raging from election process to independent media require effort to reach the standard of the consolidated democracy.