Central Election Commission (CEC) annulled on April 22 a decision of a lower election administration allowing former defense minister Irakli Okruashvili to run for mayor of town of Gori in the June 15 local elections.
Okruashvili announced about intention to run for mayor of Gori in his native Shida Kartli region last month, but his bid is facing legal hurdles related to two-year residency requirement.
Okruashvili, who was then president Mikheil Saakashvili’s ally before quitting the cabinet in November 2006, was arrested in September, 2007 just two days after launching an opposition party. At that time he was charged with large scale extortion; less than two weeks after he was arrested, Okruashvili was released on bail; he then left the country in what his supporters said was in fact expulsion. He had lived in France, where he was granted asylum, before returning back to Georgia in November, 2012 after change of government in Georgia.
On April 19 chairman of District Election Commission (DEC) in the town of Gori issued a decree on registration of Okruashvili as a mayoral candidate. But the decision was challenged by two small parties – People’s Party and Movement for Fair Georgia, which appealed against the decree in the Central Election Commission (CEC).
They argued that Okruashvili, who returned back to Georgia in November 2012, is failing to meet two-year residency requirement, hence he’s not eligible to run for Gory mayor.
CEC discussed the appeal and, as its chairperson Tamar Zhvania said, after a lengthy considerations decided to annul Gori DEC’s decree.
Zviad Kortsadze, who acts as a lawyer for Irakli Okruashvili, says that the ruling will be appealed in the court. He argues that regardless of whether Okruashvili was physically in the country or not, formally ex-defense minister’s place of residency has always been registered in Georgia.
When in early March Okruashvili announced about intention to run for Gori mayoral office, he said that there were loopholes in the law, which would allow him to by-pass two-year residency requirement.
Okruashvili told Imedi TV on March 7 that for him running for Gori mayor’s office is like competing in third tier of football league, but he still decided to enter mayoral race in order “to show to everyone successful model of governance” on Gori’s example. He also said that if elected, he would allocate funds from the local budget for increasing pensions for elderly and salaries for teachers in Gori and also pledged to re-erect a Stalin statue, removed from Gori center in 2010, if the locals want it.