TBILISI -- Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili has warned lawmakers that the country is in political crisis and called on parliament to "unite on the path toward Europe."
Addressing parliament on November 14, Margvelashvili said the recent departure of three cabinet ministers responsible for closer integration with the EU and NATO raised serious questions at home and abroad about Georgia's future.
In veiled criticism of Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili's government, he said he had "noted many times in recent years that disrespect for institutions and neglect of the principles of checks and balances would create difficulties for the state system. And that has happened."
Garibashvili sacked Defense Minister Irakli Alasania on November 4, after Alasania condemned a series of arrests and charges against military officers as a politically motivated "attack on Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic choice."
Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze and European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Minister Aleksi Petriashvili quit after Alasania's dismissal.
The three had represented the most vocal camp within the ruling Georgian Dream coalition for rapidly forging closer ties with NATO and the EU.
Margvelashvili suggested that the government must back up stated hopes for closer "Euroatlantic" integration with adherence to democratic principles, saying that "one can't sit on two chairs simultaneously -- one cannot make declarations about European goals while at the same time building a different style of state."
He cited former President Mikheil Saakashvili's years in office -- during which the pro-Western leader implemented reforms but faced increasing allegations of authoritarian rule from his opponents -- as an example of what can happen in such situations.
"Saakashvili was the most vocal speaker of 'Westernization,' but after he decided to build an undemocratic state that has nothing to do with the West, he suffered a failure," Margvelashvili said.
He said Garibashvili's government is facing a higher bar for meeting democratic standards than its predecessor.
Saakashvili's long-ruling party was ousted from power by tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition in October 2012 parliamentary elections, and Ivanishvili named Garibashvili to succeed him as prime minister last year.
Alasania’s dismissal opened the biggest rift yet in Georgian Dream, prompting the exit of his Free Democrats party from the coalition.
On November 8, Alasania was elected chairman of the Free Democrats -- which he founded -- and said that the party hopes to "celebrate victory" in a 2016 parliamentary election.
The ruling coalition still has a majority in parliament, however, because 12 former Saakashvili allies joined Georgian Dream on November 10, giving it 87 seats in the 150-seat legislature.