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Saakashvili signs constitutional amendment granting EU citizens suffrage

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, May 31
President Mikheil Saakashvili has approved the constitutional amendment that allows certain EU citizens to participate in Georgian elections.

According to the new legislation, effective through January 1, 2014, EU citizens over the age of 21 who were born in Georgia and have lived in Georgia for the previous five years have the right to take part in parliamentary or presidential elections, as well as hold the post of President, Prime Minister, and Speaker of Parliament.

The changes are widely regarded as having being made for the benefit of Georgian Dream leader Bidzina Ivanishvili, who had his Georgian citizenship revoked last fall. However, after Parliament confirmed the amendment Ivanishvili called on the President not to sign it, calling the legislation "dangerous" for the country.

"Mikheil Saakashvili, with this decision, one more time confirmed that the Constitution for him is a notebook, in which he can make notes all the time as he wishes, Eka Beselia, a Georgian Dream representative, stated. She confirmed that if the coalition wins the parliamentary elections, they will revoke the amendment.

Head of the Elections and Political Science Centre Kakha Kakhishvili told The Messenger that he believes the amendment was not only for Ivanishvili's benefit, as they will also fill the United National Movement's voting lists, by enabling Georgian professionals in Europe to vote and to donate. "There are many Georgian businessmen [sic] living abroad who need status. They have money, but if they become MPs in Georgian Parliament, their status will rise in those countries... Despite Ivanishvili refusing to use such changes, there will be a category of people that will definitely use them".

As for Ivanishvili and his participation, Kakhishvili believes that enough pressure could still see his citizenship re-instated. "Much is dependent upon the coalition making the right moves and making the issue as real as it has been from the beginning... The international representation [in Georgia] know very well that the law itself is unacceptable and does not function in any democratic European state".