Salome Zourabichvili should have been allowed to run in presidential elections
On 3 September, the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Georgia refused to register Salome Zourabichvili as a candidate for the 2013 presidential elections. Zourabichvili holds both Georgian and French citizenship. The CEC cited Article 29(1¹) of the Georgian Constitution, which provides that a Georgian citizen who is a dual citizen cannot take the presidential office. We do not agree with this CEC’s decision, as we believe that Salome Zourabichvili should be allowed to run in the presidential elections.
Neither the Election Code nor the Constitution of Georgia requires that a presidential candidate must hold only Georgian citizenship. Article 70 of the Constitution and Article 96 of the Election Code, providing quite detailed requirements for registration of a presidential candidate, are silent on the issue of dual citizenship. Article 29(1¹) of the Georgian Constitution is the only regulation posing restrictions in such case. However, the provision bans individuals with dual citizenship from taking the presidential office, but does not ban them from running in the elections. Therefore, if an individual with dual citizenship wins the elections, s/he will simply abandon the citizenship of the foreign country, and thereby will not infringe on the Constitutional provision.
Moreover, the principle of proportionality requires that a measure aimed at achieving the objective of the law (the Constitution) must be the least restrictive of legal rights. We believe that the purpose of Article 29(1¹) of the Georgian Constitution – individuals only with Georgian citizenship can hold the presidential position – can be fully achieved if Salome Zourabichvili is allowed to register as a presidential candidate and renounce her French citizenship if her candidacy is successful.
In addition, Article 29(1¹) is a later amendment to the Georgian Constitution. If the legislative intent had been to apply it also to the presidential candidates, it would have been added to Article 70 (this is the provision which determines requirements for registration of a presidential candidate), instead of Article 29. Alternatively, it would have been specified in the Election Code that individuals with dual citizenship cannot run in elections, or the Constitutional provision in question would have been drafted in a manner so that it also applied to the candidates.
Also, according to Article 104⁴ of the Constitution, an individual without Georgian citizenship can become the Georgian President by 2014. Consequently, it would be illogical not to allow a Georgian citizen with dual citizenship to register as a candidate, especially, since the Constitution does not ban such action.
Finally, we believe that not allowing Salome Zourabichvili to run in the elections will have a negative effect on the citizens’ trust towards the 2013 Presidential Elections in Georgia.