Central Election Commission (CEC) has refused to register former foreign minister Salome Zourabichvili as a presidential candidate for the October 27 election, citing her dual citizenship.
CEC cited a provision in the constitution which bans dual nationals from taking president’s office.
But Zourabichvili, who holds French and Georgian citizenship and was Georgia’s foreign minister in 2004-2005, argues that although constitution bans her from taking the president’s office, the provision does not bar dual nationals from running in election as a candidate.
She criticized CEC interpretation of this provision of the constitution as “completely groundless” and “illegal” and said that she would appeal CEC’s decision to court.
Decision on whether or not to register an applicant is made by CEC chairperson – in the case of Zourabichvili, the decision was made by acting chairman Davit Kirtadze, who chairs CEC since the resignation of Zurab Kharatishvili.
Such a decision was not a surprise as CEC has already denied in registration to two would-be presidential candidates on the same grounds of dual citizenship.
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 argued 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.
Last 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.