I read with interest your recent profile of Bidzina Ivanishvili, the Georgian opposition leader (“Enigmatic oligarch”, 13-19 September). I feel that I must address certain points.
The article makes reference to Ivanishvili's loss of Georgian citizenship, seemingly implying that it was a politically motivated response to his announcement that he was entering politics. That is not the case. Ivanishvili chose to become a Russian citizen after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He was subsequently granted Georgian citizenship in 2004. Unbeknownst to Georgia's civil registry, he then gained French citizenship, a fact that he only made public upon his entry into politics in October 2011.
Georgian law provides for the automatic revocation of Georgian citizenship if another country's citizenship is obtained. Ivanishvili – like myself and 30,000 Georgians since 1996 – thus lost his. Under Georgian law, he could have retained both citizenships – but only if he proactively applied for dual-citizenship status. Thus far, he has refused to apply to reacquire Georgian citizenship through the proper, legal channels.
As of 30 May 2012, any citizen of an EU member state who was born in Georgia and has been living in Georgia for the past five years has the right to vote in parliamentary elections and to stand for office, including the posts of president and prime minister. This allows Ivanishvili to run in the parliamentary elections and, should he win, to become prime minister without needing to acquire Georgian citizenship.
The government of Georgia has gone to great lengths to create a level playing field for all candidates and parties during these elections, and reports from international election monitors consistently say that these will be the most competitive elections in Georgian history. It is worth noting that the government encouraged the international observers to monitor the campaign.
A 10 September report by long-term election monitors deployed on the ground by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) is positive. While it highlights a “polarised” political environment, the report notes that it is an environment where views and opinions can be expressed openly and freely by both political parties and the media for assessment by the Georgian public. The OSCE observers note that this is the foundation of every free and fair election.
The OSCE report also gives positive reviews to the preparations by the electoral administration and assesses that the outcome of the vote will reflect the will of Georgian citizens. The OSCE thus refutes recent attacks on the electoral administration by Ivanishvili and by his Georgian Dream coalition.
The Georgian government is committed to organising free and fair elections, and it is working with all of its international partners to that end. We do not want to allow the campaign to be smeared by allegations and misinformation; we will continue to fight for the European values that we have made our own. We call on all the political forces in Georgia to fight alongside us for these values, whatever our political differences might be.
Tornike Gordadze Georgia's state minister on European and Euro-Atlantic integration Tbilisi