Not so long ago, Georgia's 2018 presidential election was won by Salome Zurabishvili. For many, this doesn’t really say much, so let's look at what it’s all about: a few details of Zurabishvili’s biography.
Salome Zurabishvili was born in France (her parents emigrated from Georgia in 1921) and worked for about 30 years in the French Foreign Ministry. She arrived in Georgia in 2003 as a diplomat and became the country’s foreign minister in March 2004. A year later, she was removed, and she went into opposition to Mikheil Saakashvili.
Georgian voters elect the President of the country for a six-year term. The next president will be chosen by the electoral college of 300 people because Georgia is moving to a parliamentary system.
But Salome Zurabishvili is interesting because she’s the first female president in Georgia's modern history. For the post-Soviet republic where the society is patriarchal, such a choice is unexpected to say the least.
I suggest we think about how this happened. Let's start with the qualities and skills of the president.
Zurabishvili as a politician
Zurabishvili has extensive experience in the diplomatic service in France since 1974, becoming a professional diplomat, having received positions in Rome, the United Nations, Brussels, Washington, etc.
In Georgian politics, Salome Zurabishvili appeared in 2004 and occupied the post of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. During her work, Zurabishvili actively participated in negotiations with the Russian Federation, the result of which was successfully withdrawing Russian bases from Georgia.
In order to make clear what kind of a politician she is, it is enough to recall how she conducted these negotiations.
"The most difficult for Russia was to agree on the withdrawal of Russian bases from Georgia. I decided to speak the Georgian language instead of Russian, which has always been used in relations between the CIS countries.
I also removed the red carpet, which was dropped due to the arrival of the Russian minister in Tbilisi, when he refused to lay flowers at the monument to the fallen for the independence and territorial integrity of Georgia."
Zurabishvili as a team player...
Initially, she did not cooperate with other opposition parties. But the local elections of 2006 were unsuccessful for her party. The party won just 2.7 percent of the vote at the time and, after this setback, she started to cooperate with other political forces.
Everything indicates that she is an experienced politician and is capable of much. And she is the first woman president. We can say that this will help change the situation and women will be more actively involved in the politics of their country. But the reality is not so simple.
A woman president and women's rights are not exactly the same. During the election campaign, the main characters on her campaign posters were her male colleagues - her face eventually disappeared from the posters altogether.
And it did not cause the protest from the presidential candidate. Maybe this is also a part of politics, but if I were a woman, it would seem to me a little bit strange - the woman was removed from the poster and replaced with male faces.
Zurabishvili also said that she will primarily be the president for women. And probably many expected that she would immediately begin to lead an active struggle for the rights of women. But there’s not much of such activity.
Zurabishvili for women’s rights
There was a scandal recently - about one of the female politicians in Georgia: someone posted her intimate video in open access. For a woman who is involved in politics, this is a much bigger blow than for male politicians. As an example, I can say that when Shevardnadze was president of Georgia, if there was a video of him having sex, maybe the people would postpone the revolution!
But in the case of a woman, the situation is different. She can be discredited and it can even put an end to her career.
And do you know what Zurabishvili is doing to support another woman politician from the party that helped her become president? Just a small statement and nothing more!
Who knows, what Zurabishvili will or will for protection of women's rights during her presidency. The good thing is that the first female president means that we achieved another milestone. As President, Salome will have her own political game to play during the next six years. And the women's game is still on.