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Constitutional changes rankle opposition

By Salome Modebadze
Thursday, May 24
The leader of the Georgian Dream political coalition Bidzina Ivanishvili has requested that President Mikheil Saakashvili not sign the constitutional changes passed by the parliament. In an open letter to Saakashvili directly after yesterday’s parliamentary session, Ivanishvili discouraged the “anti-constitutional” changes passed which allow Georgian-born EU citizens to participate in elections if they are over 21 and have been living in Georgia for the last five-years.

“The constitution is really being changed for one person, but that person is not me... it’s you,” Ivanishvili addressed the President stressing he won’t participate in the parliamentary elections if Saakashvili signs the document. Hoping the President would make a wise decision on behalf of the country; Ivanishvili said he would apply for dual-citizenship and continue fighting for his team’s success as the citizen of a foreign country within its constitutional framework.

While President Saakashvili was in the US to attend the NATO summit, the ruling United National Movement (UNM) members said the president won’t veto the constitutional legislation. Majority MPs explained that the changes initiated by the Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) would ensure equal electoral opportunities for all political actors. The Legal Issues Committee Chairman Pavle Kublashvili, said Ivanishvili shouldn’t talk with the Georgian people in the language of ultimatums.

Nugzar Tsiklauri thinks that Ivanishvili tried to avoid participation in the democratization process by choosing the radical path to leave the political arena. “He seemed not to have hopes for victory,” Petre Tsiskarishvili said. He also suggested that Ivanishvili wanted to create an image of being a victim instead of engaging in active political life.

CDM member Giorgi Akhvlediani said Ivanishvili could have requested Saakashvili to grant him dual citizenship a month earlier when the situation was in the blind alley. But he said both sides started speculating around the issue. Akhvlediani said it’s high time for every political power to begin their election campaigns and offer society ways out of the situation. CDM leader Giorgi Targamadze said that by initiating the constitutional changes they have done everything to ensure democratic elections this fall.

Opposition MP Jondi Bagaturia welcomed Ivanishvili’s step. He said it’s the ethically and legally correct position as a politician to encourage the President not to violate the constitution. Bagaturia said that instead of a one-sentenced decision about the restoration of Ivanishvili’s citizenship, the President changed the state document.

Political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze said that even if Ivanishvili’s participation in the elections would stand under the questions, it won’t have a dramatic impact on his political team. Another analyst, Soso Tsiskarishvili, estimated Ivanishvili’s decision as “a very successful [step] with no steps back.” According to Tsiskarishvili, the businessman proved that he cares about the country.

Kakhi Kakhishvili Head of the Electoral and Policy-Technology Research Centre said that if Ivanishvili would have made such a strict statement earlier, the international community wouldn’t have lost their attention on the issue. He thinks Ivanishvili’s position is too late.

The Georgian Dream’s spokeswomen Maia Panjikidze said that Ivanishvili’s statement was “patriotic.” Stressing that the team’s political plans won’t change, she added that the Georgian Dream will remain as Bidzina Ivanishvili’s political power base.