TBILISI, DFWatch – Businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili is one step closer to knowing whether he will be allowed to run in Georgia’s coming parliamentary and presidential elections through ordinary avenues, as Tbilisi’s city court schedules his pre-trial session for December 5.
The issue before the court is whether to give him back his Georgian citizenship. But Ivanishvili is also planning to go directly to the president and request him to grant him citizenship.
The case goes back to the beginning of October, when the businessman’s citizenship was revoked following a presidential decree dated October 11. The reason given was the fact that Ivanishvili is a French citizen.
According to the government’s version of all this, Ivanishvili was granted Georgian citizenship in 2004. He was a Russian citizen at that time, so it meant that he became a dual citizen. But Ivanishvili later became citizen of a third country, France. Due to Georgian legislation, the government argues, his citizenship should then have been determined. But the French citizenship was unknown to authorities, it is claimed, until Ivanishvili published an open letter on October 7 expressing his wish to enter politics.
Not being a Georgian citizen means that Ivanishvili can’t be involved in any political activities; he won’t be able to finance political parties and won’t be allowed to participate in elections.
But on the other hand, if he is somehow able to obtain a citizenship before the time of the next election, he will have the right to engage in political activities and party financing.
The only restriction is that a dual citizen cannot become president, Prime Minister or parliament Speaker. A presidential candidate should have lived in the country for the last five years.
What is clear, is that if Ivanishvili really wants to enter politics, obtaining a citizenship is crucial for him.
Lawyers consider that even though Ivanishvili’s citizenship was revoked, he has the option to appeal to the president with a request of granting him Georgian citizenship, based on what is called ‘special merits to the country’. Lawyers have stated that the president will not have any grounds to refuse him this. Of course, time is also a crucial factor in this.
When it comes to the legal issues, political interpretations are being made by the ruling party and in these there is more attention on the connection between Ivanishvili and Russia.
Only the Georgian president can grant citizenship. Someone desiring Georgian citizenship should personally apply to the president with a special statement.
Ivanishvili’s press office says that the businessman has decided to appeal to the president with such an application. But when he is going to apply is yet unclear.
At the same time Ivanishvili requests that the court declares invalid the presidential decree which revoked his and his wife’s Georgian citizenship.
Bidzina Ivanishvili’s lawyers applied to the Tbilisi City Court on October 21. His lawyers entered a petition and requested to stop the mentioned act before the review of the case. The judge didn’t satisfy the petition. The claimant then appealed the judge’s ruling but the Appeal Court upheld the City Court’s decision.
Zakaria Kutsnashvili, an advisor to Ivanishvili, claims that both parties will present their evidence at the December 5 session and it’s not excluded that there will be another petition.
“We don’t speak of a petition yet. But I won’t promise the public that the judiciary group working on Ivanishvili’s citizenship is planning to make public and inform the civil society of all the evidence before the main trial session. All that is connected to Ivanishvili and his wife’s citizenship termination; because we think that the truth is on our side,” Kutsnashvili said.