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Ivanishvili Gives Interview to Reuters

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, October 18
In his interview with released on October 17, Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili answered questions regarding his attitude towards Russia, his perspectives concerning Georgia's future, and the current situation regarding his citizenship.

As has become clear, Ivanishvili’s attitude towards Russia does not differ from that of Europe's leaders. According to Ivanishvili, Russia committed “unprecedented aggression“ against Georgia, however, according to him Tbilisi is also responsible for the bloodshed due to being “unreasonable and undiplomatic”. The billionaire thinks that it is possible that there is a “confluence of interests between Georgia and Russia. “ In this context, Ivanishvili believes that he will be able to find a role for Georgia that will be acceptable for the US, Europe and Russia.

Democratic values were one of the topical issues Ivanishvili touched upon in the interview. He said that even Europeans would be astonished by the high level of democracy in Georgia in the near future were he to be elected. The businessman laid out the main reforms he would carry out as Prime Minister or Parliamentary Speaker: “court reform, constitutional reform based on public discussions, elimination of corruption in the higher echelons of government, improvement of the investment environment.“

Based on the current situation it is difficult to say whether Ivanishvili will manage to participate in the elections at all, as he was left without citizenship of Georgia due to a presidential decree signed on October 11, 2011, however Ivanishvili is not going to concede. On the contrary, “negotiations with healthy opposition powers are under way. I can tell you with 90% certainty that I’ll be in parliament with an absolute majority”, Ivanishvili said, adding that, “I decided to go into politics after a week of hesitation and sleepless nights. But now I think that my position will strengthen daily and the government’s position will weaken. They tried to exclude me from political processes, but I’m not going to stop. If they try to prevent me from taking part in the election, the election will be illegitimate”.

The ruling political party, the UNM, say that it is pointless to discuss Ivanishvili’s future attempts to participate in the elections as he does not have citizenship, and thus practically no more new comments have been made by UNM representatives about the billionaire. However the ruling powers were quick to move attention onto the property of Ivanishvili, which, they say, was basically accumulated in Russia and hints at a pro-Russian orientation.

Unlike the authorities, those opposition parties who dislike Ivanishvili emphasise Ivanishvili’s pro-American orientation. The leader of the Labor party Shalva Natelashvili alleges that the US will replace Mikheil Saakashvili with Bidzina Ivanishvili. According to him, after Saakashvili broke into power as a result of a Rose Revolution coup sponsored by George W Bush, Washington made Georgia a colony and took measures to avoid other powers and especially the Laborites from coming to power. “As they know slavery affects a significant part of our people when it comes to a man with money. They found a new “Soros 2” with a Georgian surname – Ivanishvili, who was financially supporting the regime and whose billions are in American and European banks; this will enable them to have 100% control of this person. As a result, power will be preserved by the current governing elite, foreign policy will be oriented towards NATO and the US, and this excludes the return of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali and will deepen the process of Georgia falling to pieces”, Natelashvili said.

Journalists reminded Natelashvili about one of his pre-election statements, when he said that Ivanishvili would be a good Prime Minister. Natelashvili said that Ivanishvili would be a good Prime Minister if he was not a US man.

Analyst, Gia Nodia also criticized Ivanishvili for giving his first interview to foreign media when Georgian media was also ready to broadcast his interview, “if you want to be a Georgian Prime Minister why should you give the first interview to foreign media ?” the analyst stated, however he also criticized the seizure of Georgian citizenship from Ivanishvili. “The government wants to discredit him and does it by whatever means it has. Talking only about the issue of Russia standing behind Ivanishvili and nothing more is not enough, however.'

According to analyst Mamuka Areshidze, the authorities claims that Ivanishvili is “a Russian product“ is groundless and that such kinds of statements are profitable more for Ivanishvili than for the current leadership of Georgia. “By choosing the Free Democrats and Republicans as allies from Ivanishvili’s side – this was proof that he is not Russian oriented, as from those opposition parties the Free Democrats are supported by the US and the Republicans are famous for their pro-western views.”