TBILISI, DFWatch – The main challenger in Georgian politics Tuesday consulted with the country’s highly respected patriarch, and received advice about his further steps to claim power.
Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II, Georgia’s most respected person, met Bidzina Ivanishvili Tuesday at 6 pm, and the businessman afterwards said he received many tips which will help him in his political career. President Saakashvili has not commented on the development.
The Georgian billionaire and longstanding philanthropist Bidzina Ivanishvili declared last month that he will be seeking power in the parliamentary election in October 2012. A few days later authorities revoked his Georgian citizenship thereby blocking him from entering politics. Mr Ivanishvili later said he wanted to meet the patriarch, and in an interview with a local media organization, Palitra, said such a meeting was already scheduled.
Meanwile, there was an expectation that the country’s most respected person, Patriarch Ilia II, would share his views on what is happening, and last Sunday he finally made his position clear, saying he is convinced that president Saakashvili will do the right thing and grant the businessman his citizenship.
Tuesday, news broke that Ivanishvili and the patriarch would be meeting at 6 pm. Afterwards, Ivanishvili told Interpressnews that it was an interesting meeting. “I received many tips from him, which we consider, and which will help me in my future career,” the businessman said. The patriarch said after the meeting that be believes everything will be all right.
Ivanishvili’s citizenship was terminated on October 11, 2011. It happened following a presidential decree, but for a whole month president Saakashvili never mentioned the issue in his speeches.
It was during his Sunday sermon in the Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi that Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II stated that Bidzina Ivanishvili should be given back his citizenship.
“There are discussions about whether Ivanishvili should or should not be a Georgian citizen. Yes, of course he should be Georgian citizen, because he is a Georgian. I think that every Georgian person born in Georgia or in a foreign country, who has Georgian spirit and flesh, should be a Georgian citizen. I’m troubled that such a simple issue caused such unwanted controversy. I’m sure that the president will foresee this and will grant him citizenship,” Illia II said.
Irakli Alasania, leader of the Free Democrats, said he thinks the Georgian Patriarch expressed how Georgian society feels about the tycoon’s citizenship.
“The Patriarch said in his sermon all we want to say. The Georgian people also want Bidzina Ivanishvili to have his Georgian citizenship restored. I can hardly imagine that granting him citizenship will become a problem again after that. This is what the Georgian people need, it’s needed for the sake of justice and political reality. I strongly hope that a concrete decision will be made soon regarding this issue,” Alasania told journalists.
“Each of the Patriarch’s words need to be shared. We should give all the people who have been citizen of our country a chance to return to being citizen, regardless of how they lost their citizenship. The Patriarch’s speech perfectly approaches this issue without any politics. It concerns not only Ivanishvili, but also with all the other people, who want to live in Georgia. Of course, no one should object to this and we, as perish; accept this blessing and it’s acceptable for us. But how well will it be acceptable for the government, this they should answer themselves,” Levan Vepkhvadze, one of the leaders of Christian Democrats states.
No one from the government has commented on the issue.
“I cannot make political comment on the Patriarch’s statement. I have my own human relationships with him; I’m not able to make political comment on his statement,” speaker of parliament David Bakradze states.
President Saakashvili’s spokesperson Manana Manjgaladze made a statement at a briefing Tuesday on behalf of the Georgian president, which read: “I express huge respect and towards Georgia’s patriarch, but we prefer not to comment on this issue.”
The government explained its decision by arguing that they didn’t know that Ivanishvili had a Russian and French citizenship in addition to his Georgian one, and that following a section of the law which precludes double citizenship, his citizenship was therefore ‘automatically’ revoked.
According to the government’s official explanation, Ivanishvili received Georgian citizenship in 2004 when he already was a citizen of Russia. He obtained French citizenship after that, a fact which was unknown to the government, because Ivanishvili himself had not informed them about it.
Lawyers explain that the government’s argument is legally justified, but that Georgian legislation also foresees that a person may be granted citizenship because of his or her special merits for the country. Ivanishvili has implemented a number of projects in the country, especially in order to defend the country and in cultural life; he is still engaged in charity up until today.
Revoking his and his wife’s citizenship was therefore seen by many as a political game, since Georgian legislation bars a person without citizenship from being involved in or finance political activities.
A number of politicans and public figures have demand to have his citizenship restored and signatures have been gathered as part of this from both well-known politicians and ordinary people.