Parliament passed with its second reading on May 15 constitutional amendment, which will allow leader of opposition coalition Georgian Dream, Bidzina Ivanishvili, to vote and be elected in October parliamentary elections, as well as in next year’s presidential election without becoming a Georgian citizen.
The draft was amended to make it tailored specifically on Ivanishvili. The draft now specifies that political rights will be given to a Georgian-born citizen of EU-member state, who “has permanently lived in Georgia for last 5 years”, instead of 10 years. After the draft, containing wording “last 10 years”, was passed with its first hearing on May 8, Ivanishvili said that it would not apply him because he had lived permanently in Georgia since 2004. After that the draft was amended and “last 10 years” was changed with “last 5 years”.
The draft of amendment says that this provision will be in force only before January 1, 2014
In this ongoing process of constitutional amendment Ivanishvili, who is a French citizen, and his Georgian Dream opposition coalition was trying to stand away from the process, saying that they do not support such amendment, but Ivanishvili will make use of this amendment if approved. Ivanishvili and his allies have said for number of times that President Saakashvili created such situation by his refusal to give Ivanishvili citizenship through naturalization and now it was up to Saakashvili’s allies in the parliament to resolve this situation.
During the discussion of the draft at the parliamentary session on May 15, a senior ruling party MP Giorgi Gabashvili said that Ivanishvili refused to apply for dual-citizenship, as he was recommended by the Civil Registry Agency, and instead tried to play “the victim”. He said that two options were left: either to sideline Ivanishvili from the political processes or to pass a constitutional amendment granting him political rights. MP Gabashvili said that the first option would have been harmful for the entire electoral process because Ivanishvili was the major opposition leader.
“Not a single political force will face obstacles,” he said. “We are not the country where political players are kicked out of the political scene.”
The same package of constitutional amendment also includes a provision, not related to Ivanishvili, according to which the minimum age for becoming an MP will be reduced from current 25 to 21. Amendments have yet to be passed with third and final reading.