TBILISI, DFWatch – Yesterday, he was denied having his political rights restored, but today Georgia’s richest man vowed to regain his citizenship, form a political party and launch himself as candidate for Prime Minister within just over two weeks.
Georgian authorities yesterday refused to reinstate billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili’s citizenship, but the battle seems set to continue, as his lawyers said the decision was illegal.
The battle started after President Saakashvili revoked Ivanishvili’s citizenship on October 11, 2011, as a direct consequence of an open letter published by Ivanishvili four days earlier, in which he said he would enter into politics and take part in the parliamentary election in October 2012.
After recent amendments, Georgian legislation bars non-citizens from setting up political parties. Despite this, Ivanishvili said at a press conference on Thursday responding to the Civil Registry’s decision yesterday, that he will be a Georgian citizen by April 21. The political party he is going to set up will be called ‘Georgian Dream Democratic Georgia’. A political bloc which also will be set up on the same day will be named ‘Ivansihvili – Georgian Dream’.
“When Saakashvili revoked my citizenship, it was absolutely illegal,’ Ivanishvili said today, adding that yesterday’s decision not to give him citizenship through naturalization was a decision inspired by Saakashvili’s fear.
“This was a political decision. The reason is that the whole state is built on one single man who has monopolized the government.”
The businessman briefly reminded listeners about all the events and incidents which have happened around him since he released the first open letter; starting with the problems in his Cartu Bank, a number of fines from the Chamber of Control, his citizenship issue, and other things.
Ivanishvili didn’t specify how he is sure he will be a Georgian citizen in a few weeks. He didn’t let journalists ask questions today. But after he was finished talking, his lawyer Archil Kbilashvili said they are going to wait for the president to decide whether he agrees with the Civil Registry’s statement yesterday about not to restore his citizenship.
The lawyer didn’t talk about further plans.
“We believe that by [April 21] Bidzina Ivanishvili will be a Georgian citizen,” Kbilashvili said.
Today John Bass, U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, weighed in on the issue.
“We urge the government of Georgia to resolve the ongoing question of Mr. Ivanishvili’s citizenship fairly and expeditiously,” Bass said.
Ivanishvili appealed to the president to give him Georgian citizenship through naturalization in Januray, after Tbilisi City Court didn’t satisfy his appeal of Saakashvili’s decision to revoke his citizenship. The Georgian Civil Registry yesterday released a small statement explaining the reason for not giving Georgian citizenship to the businessman.
Parliamentary elections are scheduled for early October 2012. A law regulating the election environment was amended in the end of 2011 to create more transparency, but local and international groups say the changes worsened the situation. The party financing rules were made more strict than before and now apply to not only organizations, but also individuals. Also, there is criminal responsibility placed on voters, for example for receiving gifts from politicians on the campaign trail.
After today’s press conference, Ivanishvili met with foreign diplomats to inform them about his citizenship troubles. The meeting was closed, but after the meeting, the businessman told journalists that he called on the diplomats to maintain a position of principle.
“There are no courts in Georgia, and they shouldn’t have expectations that a court will make decision on my citizenship,” he said, hoping that embassies will express their position and demand an answer.
Bidzina Ivanishvili, famous for his many charitable programs and activities, was in 2004 granted Georgian citizenship by the Georgian president for special merits to the country.