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Ivanishvili Counter Attacks Controversial Legislation

By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, May 23
A Georgian-born EU citizen over 21 living in Georgia for the last five-years will now have the right to participate in elections. This includes voting or being a state official. With 109 votes to none, the Georgian Parliament adopted the changes to the State Constitution on May 22. The changes will be valid until January 1, 2014.

Christian-Democratic Movement leader Giorgi Targamadze said everyone who wants to have competitive and transparent elections in the country would have welcomed this “temporary norm” as a way out of the political blind alley. He said in this case, all the “main political actors” would have equal right to participate in elections.

It was the CDM initiative that was aimed at ensuring a competitive electoral environment for the Parliamentary and Presidential elections. The changes, which will be valid for three years, enable Georgian Dream Leader Bidzina Ivanishvili to participate in the upcoming elections this fall.

No debates have been followed by the parliamentary session, as the MPs had already discussed the possible constitutional changes at the two previous hearings. The United National Movement (UNM) supported CDM’s initiative from the very beginning.

Legal Issues Committee Chairman Pavle Kublashvili hoped this norm would end “the speculations” around Ivanishvili’s participation in the upcoming elections. When Ivanishvili was deprived of his Georgian citizenship and was denied the restoration his citizenship through naturalization, his chances to participate in this fall’s elections were in doubt.

But as Kublashvili said, Ivanishvili’s right to participate in the parliamentary and presidential elections will now be guaranteed by the state constitution. Welcoming equal opportunities for the participating parties in the elections, he said it’s up to the voters to put the final verdict to candidates.

Guram Chakhvadze from the National-Democratic Movement didn’t approve of the changes. He explained that the Georgian people should vote for Georgian candidates. He believed that no norms should be adjusted to accommodate particular individuals.

Manana Nachkebia form the New Rights party spoke of the importance of Ivanishvili’s participation in the elections. Approving the constitutional changes, she said it would add legitimacy to the upcoming elections.

Constitutional expert Vakhtang Khmaladze called the constitutional changes “unprecedented” in the world. He told The Messenger that it is absurd to allow an EU citizen to vote or to run for office when a Georgian citizen, who is at the same time the citizen of another country, doesn’t have such a right. “Where is the logic here?” Khmaladze said, adding that the new norm would endanger the independence and security of the country.

Calling the deprivation of Ivanishvili’s citizenship a political and legal mistake, he said the ruling party has approved of the constitutional changes to hide their mistake. “They are not doing it for Ivanishvili,” the analyst said. He stressed that the changes have been made to justify illegality can’t be approved by law experts. As Khmaladze explained- even if chosen- Ivanishvili or any other EU citizen would have limited political opportunities without the changes in the law on Political Unions.

The constitutional changes will become in power after President Mikheil Saakashvili signs the document but in an open letter to the President publicized the same day Bidzina Ivanishvili discouraged the decision. Calling Saakashvili not to sign the “anti constitutional” changes Ivanishvili stressed he would prefer staying on the edge of the law rather than enter the anti-constitutional space with Saakashvili.

He said if Saakashvili will still sign the document he would refuse to participate in the upcoming Parliamentary elections but continue fighting for his team’s success as the citizen of foreign country within the constitutional frames. Hoping that the President would take a wise decision on behalf of the country Ivanishvili said he is ready to address Saakashvili for dual-citizenship but remain devoted to the promise given to people.