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Ex-Head of CEC Joins Presidential Race
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 31 Aug.'13 / 14:39

  • Zourabichvili also seeks to join the race, but faces legal controversy over dual citizenship

Former chairman of Central Election Commission (CEC) Zurab Kharatishvili has added his name to a long list of would-be presidential candidates, who have applied to CEC for registration for the October 27 election.

Kharatishvili’s nomination has been filed to CEC by a small party Georgian European Democrats, led by former MP Paata Davitaia; the nomination is also supported by the National-Democratic Party.

More than 40 persons have so far applied for registration as presidential candidates; at least 33 of them are politically either little known or virtually unknown persons for the public. Three of them have already been denied by CEC in registration.

So far the CEC has registered two persons as candidates, including leader of the Labor Party Shalva Natelashvili.

Among other prominent figures who have so far filed for registration as candidates are: Giorgi Margvelashvili of Georgian Dream; Davit Bakradze of UNM; Nino Burjanadze, a former parliamentary speaker; leader of Christian-Democratic Movement Giorgi Targamadze; MP Koba Davitashvili, who quit the Georgian Dream ruling coalition earlier this month; former Labor Party member Nestan Kirtadze; leader of Traditionalist Party Akaki Asatiani.

September 7 is a deadline for political parties and initiative groups to name their presidential candidates and to file an application to CEC to seek permission for launch of collection of signatures of supporters, required for being registered as a presidential candidate. September 17 is a deadline for would-be presidential candidates to submit to CEC signatures of at least 26,530 citizens (0.75% of number of voters). September 27 is a deadline for CEC to register presidential candidates.

Georgia’s former foreign minister, Salome Zourabichvili, is also expected to apply for being registered as a candidate. But her bid may face legal hurdles as she holds dual, French and Georgia, citizenship.

The constitution says that persons with dual citizenship have no right to hold president’s office. Zourabichvili argues that although the constitution bans a person with dual citizenship to be the president, it does not ban such individual to be a candidate and to run in the presidential election.

CEC has already denied in registration two applicants on the grounds that they hold dual citizenship. The decision was made in July when the commission was chaired by Kharatishvili; decision on whether or not to register an applicant is made by CEC chairperson.

In one case, CEC’s interpretation of the constitution that a person with dual citizenship has no right to run for president was also upheld by the court.

When Tariel Khvedelidze, who holds dual Georgian and Dutch citizenship, was denied in registration by the CEC in July, he appealed the decision to the court, but lost the case. Like Zourabichvili, he too argues that the constitution bars dual nationals from take president’s office, but not from running as a candidate in the election.

International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Tbilisi-based election watchdog group, supports this latter interpretation of the law and says that CEC’s interpretation, upheld by the court, is wrong.

Earlier this week, Salome Zourabichvili, who in 2010 announced about “temporarily quitting” Georgian politics and left the country after she became a coordinator of UN panel of experts on Iran, sent an open letter to PM Ivanishvili. In the letter, Zourabichvili, who is now in Georgia, says: “Before I file an application to the CEC, I want to meet you to personally inform you that there are no legal hurdles whatsoever for me to be registered as a candidate.”

In a response open letter on August 29, PM Ivanishvili tells Zourabichvili: “Competitiveness is one of the preconditions for democratic elections; for that reason I am interested in having as many dignified contenders in the race as possible. I strongly believe that you are one of such dignified persons and personally I would be happy to see your name on the ballot paper.”

But Ivanishvili stresses that it’s beyond his or the Parliament’s authority to decide on the matters which fall in the competence of election administration and the court.

“So I do what I can – I once again appeal and call on all the state agencies and officials to be guided only by the constitution, laws and moral certainty while deciding on issues related to the citizens’ political rights,” PM Ivanishvili said in his response to Zourabichvili.

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