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More delays for Ivanishvili citizenship decision

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, April 3
Lengthening the period Bidzina Ivanishvili has to wait for his citizenship is of no benefit to the government, Georgian Dream spokesperson Maia Panjikidze stated at a press conference on Monday.

As Panjikidze noted, Deputy Minister of Justice Tina Burjaliani said that the announcement with regards to Ivanishvili's citizenship restoration may be postponed for several days. The President has until April 5 to decide, according to Presidential Press Speaker Manana Manjgaladze. "The issue has two sides, one legal and another political, that is why the authorities need such time to make a decision. As it turns out, three months has not been long enough and the term has been lengthened," she said.

Panjikidze maintained that the authorities have no choice but to restore Ivanishvili's citizenship, "as great pressure is being carried out on the authorities by the international community, and... there are lots of Georgians demanding Ivanishvili to be granted Georgian citizenship and their signatures [on a petition] confirm this".

Based on recent statements from the administration, it has been difficult to guess the outcome of Ivanishvili's appeal. Some government representatives claim if they were in the President’s position, they would not grant citizenship to Ivanishvili, saying that the businessman refused the status himself when he accepted Russian and French citizenship, in violation of Georgian law.

The American government has made noises in support of Ivanishvili, causing a variety of reactions from Tbilisi. Some MPs say that the Georgian government should make decisions without US involvement, when others note that America’s position has always been one of respect towards them, and their input is welcome.

Chair of NGO Transparency International Georgia, Eka Gigauri, noted that American messages reach the authorities, but that those same authorities take criticism poorly, especially when they believe that their efforts have not been recognized.

Sociology professor Iago Kachkachishvili says that it is of little importance whether Ivanishvili's citizenship is restored. "It might sound like a paradox, however, I believe that if his citizenship is granted the authorities would create the same level of obstacles for Ivanishvili as they create currently". The sociologist also noted that even if the President restores Ivanishvili's status, the government will spin the story in a flattering way. "In this [regime], there is a conditional difference between the government’s success and failure... failure is hidden and everything is shown as a success. One cannot name even one example when the Georgian government recognized its failure, including the 2008 war," he said.

Kachkachishvili believes that the circle can be undone if the opposition manage a dense and effective communication and information strategy, "delivering alternative information to the public, intensely and massively... However, I cannot see such a massive strategy in the opposition now”. But Gigauri notes that the government uses television channels as propaganda tools, with state funds, "which is unacceptable” and hampers opposition attempts to disseminate its message through the media.