Tbilisi City Court upheld on September 6 a decision by Central Election Commission (CEC) refusing former foreign minister Salome Zourabichvili in registration as a presidential candidate for the October 27 election, citing her dual citizenship.
Zourabichvili denounced court’s ruling as “legally groundless” and added that she would appeal the decision to the higher court.
“Today was a test whether Georgia has or not the independent judiciary. This legally groundless decision… [demonstrates] that Georgia has no independent judiciary and judgments are made based on political grounds,” she told journalists after the judge announced his decision.
The Georgian constitution 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 says that she will renounce her French citizenship if elected.
Apart of Zourabichvili, two other would-be presidential candidates have also been denied in registration on the same grounds of dual citizenship. One of those would-be candidates, who holds Georgian and Dutch citizenship, took the case to the court, but also lost it.
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Tbilisi-based election watchdog group, says that CEC’s interpretation of the constitution in this regard is wrong. Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), which provides legal counsel to Zourabichvili in her court proceedings against CEC, as well as Transparency International Georgia also say that the constitution does not ban persons with dual citizenship from running in the presidential election.
Last week, 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.
Speaking on the issue at a press conference on September 4, PM Ivanishvili said it was “regrettable” that Zourabichvili was not able to undergo registration as a candidate and added that it was also regrettable that she was trying to shift blame for it to the government.