TBILISI, DFWatch – The billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is considered the main competitor of the Georgian government, is counting the days left until his Georgian citizenship is restored, giving him full political rights.
The final date for when the government must give an answer is April 5, but may still be postponed several days.
President Mikheil Saakashvili revoked Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian citizenship four days after the businessman released his first open letter in October, 2011, where he declared his political goals and criticized the current government.
He and his wife, who also had her citizenship revoked, went to court to have Saakashvili’s decree declared invalid, his wife’s citizenship was restored by Tbilisi City Court, but the court ruled against Ivanishvili.
This goes back to 2004, when the couple were granted Georgian citizenship by Saakashvili pursuant to a section of the law about special merits to the country. At the time, Ivanishvili was already a Russian citizen. Later, he also became a French citizen. This third citizenship, the Civil Registry said, Ivanishvili acquired without informing them about it, and this omission was the legal basis on which Saakashvili revoked Ivanishvili’s Georgian citizenship on October 11, 2011.
However, Ivanishvili’s lawyers have argued that many things the president did in this process were illegal. As part of an effort to reclaim his citizenship, Ivanishvili renounced his Russian passport and asked also to renounce his French one, however France will only suspend his French citizenship after the Georgian citizenship is restored.
In his open letter in October 2011, Ivanishvili vowed to take part in the election for parliament in 2012, with the aim of forming a government. He has signaled that he himself could become prime minister, and from this position change Georgia into a parliamentary republic. He has also said he will start impeachment proceedings against Saakashvili.
The vehicle for doing this is Georgian Dream, a political coalition set up by Ivanishvili late last year. But the lack of a Georgian citizenship places a number of restrictions on what he can do, which makes it important for Ivanishvili to have his citizenship restored within reasonable time before the parliamentary election in October, especially since Georgian politics goes into hibernation for most of summer.
According to some amendments to the legislation, a non-Georgian citizen can not get involved in political processes, can not set up a political party or even finance it. It is also prohibited to donate money to political subjects through legal entities.
In January, he applied to the president for having the Georgian citizenship restored through naturalization. There are three reasons based on which the president can deny him this: if he’s an internationally wanted person, a terrorist suspect or if giving him citizenship is dangerous for society.
To become a Georgian citizen, a person should satisfy some conditions like knowing the language and history of the country, and have lived five years in Georgia.
Ivanishvili’s lawyers say the president will have no grounds for refusing him the citizenship.
“Granting citizenship to Ivanishvili has two sides – legal and political. Bidzina Ivanishvili’s case is not ordinary, so that’s why the government needed so much time to make a decision,” Maia Panjikidze, spokesperson for Georgian Dream said today at a reguler briefing.
She says a decision should be announced by April 5, but that it seems three months wasn’t enough for making a decision. She was responding to the Deputy Justice Minister who during question hour in Parliament said that several days may be needed to make a decision about the businessman’s citizenship.
“It’s a fact that this is a painful issue for the government and they’re scared of restoring Bidzina Ivanishvili’s citizenship, because it’s related to his further political activity,” Panjikidze added.
She notes that even if his citizenship is not restored, it won’t change anything in the end.
“We have a specific plan which will end in October with Georgian Dream’s victory. Nothing will change in this plan.”