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Making life hard for Ivanishvili

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, April 11
Bidzina Ivanishvili's citizenship woes are still a hot issue in Georgia. President Mikheil Saakashvili has refused to grant him citizenship through naturalization, suggesting instead he apply for dual citizenship. At the same time, Parliament is considering a draft law from the Christian-Democrats, which would grant the right to participate in elections to those citizens of EU countries who have resided in Georgia for more than ten years. This idea, however, means amending the Constitution, something that may not find broad support, even from those sympathetic to Ivanishvili.

When the billionaire businessman entered Georgian politics in October of last year, there was an immediate obstacle for him, by nature of his triple citizenship: French, Russian and Georgian. This gave grounds to the Georgian government's decision to strip him and his wife of their Georgian citizenships, as dual nationality is technically prohibited. Later, Ivanishviliís wife, Eka Khvedelidze, had hers returned in a court case that saw a fine of 100 GEL imposed on the President.

Ivanishvili applied for citizenship months ago, and it was only on the eve of the deadline that the government announced their decision not to restore his status. This looked like little more than artificially prolonging the process in order to harm Ivanishvili's political power and hamper his options once it was clear he could not participate in the elections as a citizen. If his application was as invalid as the administration claimed, officials could have informed Ivanishvili and his lawyers about this at the beginning, not at the expiration of the three-month assessment period. It is clear that the decision was not made by ordinary civil servants, but rather by top level, partisan officials.

Recent polls show that an overwhelming majority of the public wants to see Ivanishvili's citizenship returned. The international community and Georgia's Western allies feel the same way. The actions of the Christian-Democrats, however, have prompted differing opinions. Georgian Dream, for example, is against amending the Constitution for the sake of Ivanishvili. They believe that this is once again an attempt to mold the Constitution to one manís will.

Regardless, it is unlikely that the issue will be solved in the next month, before Parliament goes on summer vacation. If Ivanishvili is granted Georgian citizenship, it will likely happen a mere month before the elections. Will it give him or his party enough time to fully participate, no one knows.