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Ivanishvili’s Georgian Citizenship Controversy Rumbles On

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, October 25
Since Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili decided to enter politics, President Saakashvili deprived him of Georgian citizenship. Many in Georgia think this move is wrong and illegal while Ivanishvili himself demands that his citizenship be restored. If it is not, then according to Georgian legislation he cannot participate in the elections and moreover he cannot finance political parties. However, the Ivanishvili factor will not be neutralized by the ruling authorities by this move.

The authorities justify the president’s decree on depriving Ivanishvili's Georgian citizenship by the following logic: on October 7, 2011 information disseminated by Bidzina Ivanishvili himself included the very important fact that he had received French citizenship after 2004 – after he had already been granted Georgian citizenship. According to Georgian legislation, when a Georgian citizen receives the citizenship of another country, Georgian citizenship is automatically lost and therefore the civil registry on October 11 stated that Ivanishvili could no longer be a Georgian citizen and would have to reapply for citizenship.

Some experts in the field and opposition members challenge such an interpretation of the Georgian legislation. A representative of the Republican Party stated that constitutionally the Georgian president can grant Georgian citizenship to a person for his contributions to Georgia and the interests of the country. The constitution does not specify any obstacles regarding whether this person is a citizen of two or more states.

Ivanishvili was a Russian citizen when in 2004 he received Georgian citizenship and later French citizenship as well. When he publicly stated this he added that he was going to abandon his Russian citizenship. It has become known that Ivanishvili had returned his Russian passport and started the legal procedure to reject his Russian citizenship. However, at the moment Ivanishvili wants to remain a French and Georgian citizen.

On October 21 Ivanishvili submitted a complaint to the city court to annul the decision depriving him of Georgian citizenship. The process might take a long time so it is possible that Ivanishvili will ask the president personally to restore his Georgian citizenship. Meanwhile on October 18 the president’s press secretary stated that depriving Ivanishvili of Georgian citizenship is in complete compliance with Georgian legislation. The spokesperson also added that Ivanishvili has a right to apply to the president to grant him Georgian citizenship again. As Ivanishvili’s lawyer Eka Beselia stated though it seems that her client was deprived of Georgian citizenship because of political motivations and there were many irregularities in the procedure. The first was that Ivanishvili was not given a chance to defend his rights in court.

If Ivanishvili will not regain his citizenship he will not have a right to participate in the political process in elections, he will not have the right to establish a political party or participate in political activities. Besides if he is not a Georgian citizen he will have no right to finance a political party or become PM – the position which Ivanishvili initially claimed for himself.

The issue will not be solved soon and it could become the subject of further controversies. From first glance depriving Ivanishvili of Georgian citizenship neutralizes him but on the other hand it is already impossible to exclude him form politics in Georgia. He can indirectly participate in Georgian politics even without citizenship. There is another argument as well: loss of Georgian citizenship creates certain amount of sympathy towards him as people perceive his treatment as unjust. This will undermine the official position therefore some analysts think that his citizenship might be restored in particular if the west puts pressure on authorities. So far this is mere speculation however. As things stands, Ivanishvili remains a potential king with no country.