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Will Salome Zourabishvili run for president?

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, September 2
Former Foreign Minister of Georgia, Salome Zourabishvili, launched an active move to take part in the presidential race. She intends to appeal to the Central Election Commission (CEC) to register her candidacy on Monday. Zourabishvili believes that despite having dual citizenship, she is eligible to run for the presidency. The former foreign minister is already in Georgia, holding meetings with the diplomatic corps about this.

Salome Zourabichvili, who in 2010 announced her temporary resignation from Georgian politics and departed after she became the coordinator of a UN panel of experts on Iran, sent an open letter to PM Ivanishvili several days ago. In the letter, Zourabichvili, stressed that “before filling out the application to the CEC, she wanted to meet with the PM to personally inform him that there were no legal hurdles for her to be registered as a candidate.

Ivanishvili responded to the letter, emphasizing that “exceptions cannot be made to any person, even of higher respectability in a democratic country, which is governed by the rule of law.”

The PM stated that competitiveness is one of the preconditions of democratic elections and the coalition is interested in having as many dignified candidates as possible involved in the presidential race.

“It is our deep belief, that you are such a person and I personally would be glad to see your name on the ballot paper... but I cannot and will not be the highest instance of justice in our state. I promised this to our people and I will never break it,” Ivanishvili said, adding that the only thing he could do was to call on all state offices and officials to follow only the constitution, laws and their faith while taking decisions about the rights of the citizens of Georgia, including Zourabichvili’s rights.

Zourabichvili has already met with the ambassador of the European Union to Georgia, Philip Dimitrov.

She stated that her “only attempt” is to persuade the international community that the Georgian Constitution does not create obstacles for her in this regard.

“I am going to help them read out the articles of the constitution, which say that I have the right to run for the president. I am not expecting any amendments. Moreover, I am against any new article ‘sewed’ especially for me into the constitution. I only want to let them know that there is an article in Georgia`s constitution, which organizes the procedures of a candidates’ registration,” Zourabichvili said.

The constitution says that those 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.

However, there are former cases when the CEC rejected registration of candidates with the reason that they had dual citizenship.

Tariel Khvedelidze had the same problem. He is has Georgian and Dutch citizenship, wishing to participate in the presidential elections.

When Khvedelidze was denied in registration by the CEC in July of2013, he appealed the decision to the court, but lost the case. Like Zourabichvili, he stresses that the constitution bars dual nationals from taking the president’s office, but not from running as a candidate in the election.

The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) believes that the Constitution of Georgia does not prohibit the right of holders of dual citizenship to run for office as presidential candidates.

The NGO believes that applicable Constitutional provisions are somehow ambiguous. However, based on their cumulative and complex rather than fragmented interpretation, ISFED believes that by refusing to register holders of dual citizenship as presidential candidates, the CEC chairperson wrongfully interpreted the Constitution.

“First, we should differentiate between the right of holders of dual citizenship to run for office, i.e. the right to be a candidate, and their right to hold high political offices,” ISFED statement reads.