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Ivanishvili Attacks Opposition and Media in Controversial Statement

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, October 10
Georgian billionaire and philanthropist, Bidzina Ivanishvili, has just appeared on the Georgian political scene and already created a great stir with his first political statement on October 7. The statement created controversy and drew attention to his personality, political plans and intentions.

A significant part of his statement was dedicated to the current situation in Georgia and the reason why he decided to get involved in the political process. According to Ivanishvili, the current Georgian authorities have made a lot of "unforgivable" mistakes and damaged almost all the areas that are vital for the country's development, from politics to economics and finance. Ivanishvili underlined that President Saakashvili’s total monopoly on power and constitutional amendments, which clearly reveal Saakashvili’s intention to maintain power and stay as leader beyond any constitutional term "prompted [his] decision to establish a political party and to run in the 2012 parliamentary elections."

However, Ivanishvili apparently does not share the attitude that simple participation is the main goal. Instead, he will attempt "to win an absolute majority in the 2012 parliamentary elections through the unification of [his] political party and other healthy political forces." Ivanishvili further stated that he plans "to define and elaborate together with the people the optimal model of governance. To participate in the formation of a new government in the capacity of either Prime Minister or Speaker of Parliament and to assume responsibility for its normal functioning in order to completely eradicate elite corruption in which Saakashvili’s current government is engulfed." Other stated goals include launching an independent judicial system and making this irreversible and creating the possibility for restoring Georgia's jurisdiction over Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

However, it is still not clear which opposition parties he sees as genuine. He claims that there are "pseudo-opposition parties in the country, together with real ones," who are not able to seriously resist Saakashvili and his ruling United National Movement.

One of the most serious factors which creates this atmosphere in Georgia is the media, according to Ivanishvili. "All the television stations, including Maestro and Kavkasia TV, are controlled by Saakashvili. These television stations represent special purpose pseudo-opposition media sources." The businessman also explains why these presumably opposition-supporting TV channels, which cover only Tbilisi, exist: "they provide a platform where pseudo or real opposition can regularly voice their position and criticize Saakashvili. Georgian citizens and foreigners are permanently being reminded that the two opposition television stations exist in Georgia but they promote a pseudo-opposition." At the same time he has voiced a serious suggestion for media owners saying that he was ready to purchase any TV channel for three times the real value and then give it back to the former owners after three years for the symbolic price of GEL 1. He is further ready he says to give shelter to all media representatives pursued or pressured by the current government.

These statements regarding the purchase of media created the greatest controversy. Representatives of the ruling party stated that "Ivanishvili's place is in a caravanserai or in the marketplace." They also went further, for example MP, Pavle Kublashvili, said that "Ivanishvili has already concluded his political career, we are not going to compete with a person, who exchanged the love for his homeland for a different currency." Fellow MP, Nugzar Tsiklauri expressed surprise towards "the poor intellectual resources of Ivanishvili." As he mentioned, he expected a more serious statement from Ivanishvili but instead "society got a dull news article composed by a person controlled by sick ambitions."

The opposition has yet to express any clear position and appears confused as to what Ivanishvili is referring to when he uses the terms 'pseudo' and 'genuine' to refer to opposition parties. The parliamentary opposition party the Christian-Democrats do not think that Ivanishvili's statements, especially about media, will bring anything positive into politics, however they are waiting to see how the situation will develop. The New Rights party are also cautious, and follow the same line as the Christian Democrats. According to them, Ivanishvili's statement represents a radical departure and may not be successful. The National Forum meanwhile says that considering any kind of collaboration with Ivanishvili at the moment is too early and that the most important thing is that the political balance has been altered and Saakashvili's power questioned.

However, some parties have already come out in support of Ivanishvili regardless of his attack on the opposition. One of the first to do so was parliamentary MP, Jondi Baghaturia, who considers Ivanishvili's appearance in Georgian politics a positive fact and expressed his willingness to collaborate. The same attitude pertains to the representatives of the Public Assembly and Our Georgia-Free Democrats. The leader of the Free Democrats, Irakli Alasania, has mentioned that Ivanishvili's attitudes in many fields coincide with his party's views and future intentions.

Unlike the opposition, Ivanishvili's statement has not been taken positively by Georgian media representatives. As journalists from different TV channels mentioned, the statement made towards the media by Ivanishvili was "insulting and less than correct." The current decision by Maestro and Kavkasia TV to sell the companies was a coincidence and neither channel intends to sell their shares, no matter how much they would be paid.

Independent analysts in the main negatively assessed the document released by Ivanishvili. Soso Tsintsadze mentioned that the points outlined in the document can be taken as less than achievable. Ramaz Sakvarelidze also shared his thoughts with The Messenger. According to him, the document was well-arranged and this was not so expected as the person was partially mythological for Georgian society and quite far from politics. All the points written there were essential and united all spheres of the opposition. "The only point which was unclear was why he decided to attack the journalists. His statement regarding them was a bit aggressive." Sakvarelidze also explains the fact that Ivanishvili decided to collaborate with current opposition forces in the following way: "he came to politics late, when all active or leading political figures are united in different parties. At this stage, to collaborate with existing ones is more justified, than finding some new people for his party."