TBILISI, DFWatch – Lawmakers in Georgia have finally achieved consensus for constitutional changes which will give opposition billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili the right to participate in elections, without being a Georgian citizen.
The amendment was originally proposed by a moderate opposition party as a way out of a legal stalemate, but was modified by the governing party so it wouldn’t apply to Ivanishvili. Now, the government has accepted a minor change which might allow him to run for election, barring further surprises.
The businessman has fought a seven month long struggle to reclaim his Georgian citizenship. After being rejected by the Civil Registry, the opposition Christian Democrats suggested constitutional changes, so that EU citizens who have lived here for three years will have the right to participate in elections.
The ruling National Movement party amended the proposal to a ten years’ residency requirement, and added the right to vote to the package.
Parliament passed the constitutional change at the first hearing. But then Pavle Kublashvili, head of the Judiciary Committee in parliament, decided to add another detail to the changes: to let the amendments expire in 2014.
It was no secret that the constitutional changes were only made with one person in mind, Bidzina Ivanishvili, although the Christian Democrats argued otherwise. But after the first hearing, the businessman flagged his opposition to the law, as he had not been living full time in the country for the last ten years, but came here in 2004.
Head of the Judiciary Committee said then that they would amend the law in a way which would be well suitable for Ivanishvili, and they did.
Today at the session of the judiciary committee, lawmakers made a correction to the bill and set the residency requirement to five years. In addition, EU citizen will also be given the right to vote.
The bill will be reviewed at today’s parliament session.
In October 2011, President Mikheil Saakashvili revoked the citizenship of Bidzina Ivanishvili, four days after he had declared in an open letter that he would go into politics in order to remove Saakashvili from power. The Ivanishvili couple were granted Georgian citizenship in 2004 by Saakashvili for special merits to the country.