Ivanishvili Waits on Citizenship Decision while Support Builds
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, December 6
The Georgian Foreign Ministry does not posses any information on recommending the restoration of Georgian citizenship to businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili from the Venice Commission. This was the statement from the Deputy Foreign Minister, Nino Kalandadze, on December 5.
Kalandadze claims that negotiating the restoration of citizenship is not foreseen in Georgian legislation, and "this should be carried out by the person, who wishes to have Georgian citizenship.”
In the official conclusion made by the Venice Commission concerning the draft election code in Georgia, it was recommended to delete a clause in the draft which was clearly related to Ivanishvili’s issue. The commission said: ”even if non-citizens (stateless and alien residents) do not have the right to vote, they do have the right to freely express their opinion, associate and participate in political debates during election campaigns. Such a clause limits fundamental rights of non-citizens residing in Georgia and conflicts with basic human rights,” the Venice Commission said.
Currently, Ivanishvili has not appealed to President Saakashvili for restoration of his citizenship as he waits for a court decision on the issue.
As the lawyer of Ivanishvuili, Eka Beselia, states if the court is politicized as it has been until now, it will do as Saakashvili says “and the process will be lengthened for months". However, the court, if independent, should find in Ivanishvili's favor and abolish the illegal act signed by the president stripping the businessman of his citizenship. Beselia also mentioned that the Public Defender or ombudsman, Giorgi Tugushi, also works on the issue and that his “report will be very interesting."
However, Ivanishvili will not wait to solve the issue through the courts and stated the date when his political organization is to be presented to society as December 11 at 15:00 at the Grand Concert Hall of Tbilisi. Ivanishvili wanted to hold the event at the Sport’s Palace where there is more space than at the Concert Hall. The billionaire’s press service says that the Sport Palace’s administration did not respond to them as to whether they can rent out the area for the meeting: ”it is a fact that that they are unable to make decisions freely, their response depends on the authorities' will,” the press service said.
There are many people in the country who believe that Ivanishvili will not be re-granted Georgian citizenship. The government permanently claims that Ivanishvili is a pro-Russian man and stripping his citizenship was carried out in full accordance with Georgian legislation. Based on the Government members “ The law states that a person loses Georgian citizenship automatically if he or she receives the citizenship of another country.” A person who does not have citizenship is disallowed from forming a political party, to lead or finance it. However, recently the vice speaker of parliament, Gigi Tsereteli, mentioned that the billionaire and his lawyers should "use all legal means and appeal to the president for the restoration of [Ivanishvili's] citizenship.” He also stated that though he could not make a forecast beforehand "the issue might be positively decided.”
The sociologist Iago Kachkachishvili says that the “cold shower“ that Ivanishvili had given the authorities would be useful for Georgia’s democratic development. He also stated which part of Georgian society would be attracted to Ivanishvili: ”several empirical public polls have been carried out and it is possible to talk about real tendencies,” he claims. He mentioned that there are two political groups in the political arena, the ruling United National Movement and Ivanishvili’s political team. ”Ivanishvili’s political rating is made up of those people who were disappointed by certain opposition forces lately, but until now their protests were not linked to any political party. This category of people responded to the question "for whom would you vote for if elections were held tomorrow" with "I don’t know", or "it is hard for me to answer" before Ivanishvili appeared on the scene. Now they have a concrete person to support and such a category of voters is possibly a full 25% of all voters.” The sociologist also stated that Ivanishvili has also attracted smaller opposition parties and voters of the United National Movement as well.