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The media event of the season: a breakthrough for Georgian politics

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, November 3
As expected, the Georgian businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili’s first live broadcast was watched closely by different political, economic and other interest groups. Some found that the conference brought additional and obvious “proof of Ivanishvili’s being Russia’s final hope,” while for others it brought hope of a different kind—“hope for Georgia’s dreams coming true”. Still others could read new hints into his statements--those who could see in Ivanishvili a politician, and not only a successful billionaire.

If until now he was dubbed by the government as a “Russian project”, after the Press Conference his “ rank” was raised by the authorities to one of a “real and obvious Russian project» and “enemy of the state”.

As majority representative, Shota Malashkhia stated, “Despite the fact that Ivanishvili does not say he is Georgia’s enemy, his statements that the Georgian side launched the war is a sign he is the enemy. He added that Ivanishvili does not have answers to such serious issues as the tax system, the reintegration of lost territories, Georgian troop participation in peace missions and so on.

Fellow majority member , Vakhtang Balavadze has voiced that he had never seen such an open endorsement of the Russian Premier , Vladimir Putin and went on to give some “confidential information” and advice to Ivanishvili: “It’s better for him to talk with people who were deported from Russia when he was safely in that state and earned his millions with Putin.” One more majority leader , Pavle Kublashvili stopped watching the live broadcast , “as soon as Ivanishvili had expressed his position towards Russia”.

In contrast to the Government’s permanent claims as to Ivanishvili’s pro-Russian orientation, most of the Georgian opposition representatives and analysts could see no proof of this. Yet even authorities who were making verbal accusations could deliver no documented proof of Ivanishvili’s “Russian connection” or that he is influenced by Putin or Medvedev.

As it seems, doing business in Russia and having State citizenship (when Ivanishvili also has French citizenship and business relations there) and his statements that Georgia was provoked by Ossetian gangs and the war was launched by Georgia-- all this enables the Georgian leaders to say he has a “Russian project”.

The larger opposition parties assessed Ivanishvili’s conference as very positive and mentioned that “the businessman managed to represent himself as a politician and statesman who has a lot of information on different state-related issues and a positive plan for coming to power.” As the leader of Republican Party, Davit Usupashvili stated, “Ivanishvili managed to show himself as a very ordinary man and someone thinking about his country-- not one having answers on all questions or promising to solve all problems.”

The leader of Our Georgia –Free Democrats , Irakli Alasania, also positively assessed the conference and mentioned that those principles which were agreed with Ivanishvili would inevitably be carried out through elections and Mikheil Saakashvili would be defeated…He talks of creating a national state where citizens would be protected , where courts will be impartial and the President’s position will be balanced by Parliament’s supervision .”

The Honourable Chair of the opposition party, Georgia’s Way, Salome Zurabishvili, also positively assessed Ivanishvili’s attitudes on interior and foreign issues. She underlined that “We should be true to ourselves and should recognize what is right. This is the issue even many people around me run away from,” Zurabishvili also mentioned that the current authorities are afraid of elections and trying to promote two “Scarecrows”: Russia and a “Revolution”. “When they do not manage to scare people with this, they go mad, like some journalists during the press conference.”

As for those opposition parties that were disliked by Ivanishvili, they have seen new hints from the businessman that he has changed his mind. It seems he was advised to stand on a more realistic and pragmatic ground, and his statement that he is ready to meet all political forces can be a positive one. It seems Christian Democrats are ready for collaboration; however they are waiting for Ivanishvili’s team. At the same time they criticized the organizational issues of the Press conference and pointed out that “A lot of money doesn’t mean good management.” A statement made by another “disliked” party, New Rights , also positively evaluated Ivanishvili’s statement on collaboration with “all opposition forces and not only some…” Pikria Chikhradze from this party said “New Rights have always been against drawing lines around the opposition and sooner or later we would collaborate with Ivanishvili. As for unification, we would not unify with any party…”

Most analysts evaluated the press conference positively and observed that “the authorities could not manage to derange it through its trained media groups.” Analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili said it was a non-standard press conference,” however it was the journalists who were not up to standards, and not Ivanishvili. They looked like specially trained special units,” the analyst said and mentioned that the press- conference was “very informative for Georgians who are unable to get objective information.”

Ivanishvili gave responses that Georgian society and the international community have wanted for a long time – analyst Gia Khukhashvili said ,”I think that his responses were absolutely adequate and represented current reality.” Fellow analyst, Ramaz Sakvarelidze paid more attention to the “main message” of the day: “I think that the legend of Ivanishvili’s lack of experience and being a “new boy” in politics is put to rest.”