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Ivanishvili Enters Georgian Politics

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, October 12
Georgian internal politics has been in state of agitation recently after tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili stated that he would be creating a political party and participating in the parliamentary elections where he plans to achieve an overwhelming victory. The always neutral and balanced Ivanishvili had been occupied mostly with charity activities. Most Georgians have heard stories of his philanthropy, generosity and magnanimity: helping ordinary people, neighbours, and residents of his home village, building and reconstructing churches, hospitals, theatres, giving grants to retired actors and actresses, writers and persons from cultural circles, helping disabled children and many, many other similar activities. Yet all of a sudden this quasi-mythological character has declared his priority the removal of the current administration and confrontation with Saakashvili and his team. All Georgian analysts label this a very important move for the country which could create a completely different balance of power.

Before Ivanishvili’s move, the development of Georgian domestic politics was mostly predestined. The United National Movement was set to secure its victory in the forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. The opposition was divided into small segments mainly pre-occupied with confronting each other, which was masterfully managed and masterminded by the ruling power. Ivanishvili’s involvement in current political events has considerably changed the existing situation.

For one thing, Ivanishvili has upset the status quo concerning the distribution of administrative resources and access to media that had been practically subordinated to the ruling party. Businessmen became scared to openly support opposition media outlets and this impoverished those outlets and gave them little clout. Yet Ivanishvili, who is a billionaire, can very seriously counter this situation.

As such Ivanishvili is a threat. His move immediately recalls the activities of yet another Georgian billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili, who confronted the United National Movement in 2007 but died in very strange circumstances in Britain in February 2008. The opposition and political analysts advise Ivanishvili not to repeat Patarkatsishvili’s mistakes.

All political parties have aired their position over the issue. Most agree with Republican David Zurabishvili who thinks that Saakashvili’s conduct created the situation for Ivanishvili’s involvement in the country’s domestic politics. The ruling authorities are seriously concerned as witnessed by comments they made over Ivanishvili’s move. They are irritated and several times their representatives have insulted him. They speculate about the origin of his money and his ambitions to buy media outlets and invest in changes in the country. Moreover, on Tuesday the civil registry declared that Ivanishvili was not a Georgian citizen and could not run for office. The billionaire has French and due to this cannot claim Georgian citizenship without special permission from the government. This latest controversy has yet to be fully played out. However, if the citizenship issue prevents Ivanishvili from running for office there is nothing to stop him from still supporting an opposition party with his fortune.

The ruling authorities are running scared then. Attacking his citizenship was part of a clear attempt to label Ivanishvili as pro-Russian because a big share of his capital is in Russia. However the ruling powers have discredited the term “pro-Russian” through overuse. The phrase has become meaningless to most Georgians – a shorthand for anyone the government does not like. Opposition parties on the contrary welcome Ivanishvili’s entry into politics. Recently it was announced that Ivanishvili will be appearing live on the Public Broadcaster. Presumably he will name his team then – a vital moment for his fledgling political career. The whole country will be watching.