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Opposition Says Former PM Ivanishvili Fears New Tbilisi Mayor

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, November 20
(TBILSI) -- Several Georgian opposition parties claim that the country’s billionaire former prime minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, is growing increasingly concerned about the newly-elected mayor of the capital Tbilisi, Kakha Kaladze, over concerns that the latter is becoming “too independent” of Ivanishvili’s authority.

Known as a reclusive business tycoon with close ties to Russia, Ivanishvili is the founder of the ruling Georgian Dream coalition (GD)who continues to wield unprecedented power over Georgia’s body politic despite having been officially retired from public life since 2013.

The Republican and Free Democrat parties claim that Ivanishvili has grown sceptical of Kaladze since the former professional footballer took office earlier this month.

“Kaladze is gradually evolving into an independent politician…Ivanishvili is already taking steps to control him,” said David Berdzenishvili, a Republican party member.

Berdzenishvili also claimed that one of Kaladze’s deputies, Giorgi Nikoleishvili, was retained as part of the mayor’s inner circle after Ivanishvili put pressure on the GD to keep a staunch loyalist close to the seat of power.

“Nikoleishvili will have more power than Kaladze, as he always follows Ivanishvili’s orders. Ivanishvili is very calculating. He’ll do anything to avoid becoming the next (Eduard) Shevardnadze,” Berdzenishvili said in reference to Georgia’s second post-Soviet president, who was overthrown in the 2003 Rose Revolution by former close confident Mikheil Saakashvili.

“Unlike his predecessors, Ivanishvili played no role in Kaladze successful election campaign. He was elected mayor on his own accords, without Ivanishvili’s involvement,” said Free Democrat party member Tamar Kekenadze, who added that Ivanishvili increasingly acts as though he is the country’s “supreme leader”.

Giorgi Volski, a Georgian Dream parliamentarian and vociferous Ivanishvili supporter, called the claims “baseless” and typical for an opposition movement that is dominated by a group of malcontents.

“They constantly criticized Ivanishvili was actively involved in election campaigning. Now when he refuses to interfere, they actually push him to get involved,” Volski said before adding that Ivanishvili “did an exceptional job” during his brief time as prime minister, but reiterated that eccentric billionaire no longer participates in the government’s activities.