Georgian Dream faces uphill battle
By Messenger Staff
Friday, February 17On February 15, Georgian tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili announced his political party's initiative group, which will lay the groundwork for an official party structure and election campaign. Ivanishvili has promised a platform in two months time, to be the materialization of his Georgian Dream. His opponents, meanwhile, are saying that his dream is doomed to failure – and doing their best to make that happen.
Ivanishvili, who entered politics only in October of last year, is in no hurry. He has created a coalition around himself, one that is still in the formation period. At his press conference Wednesday, he named eighteen individuals who are more or less well-known to the Georgian public, but who do not all come with political experience. What they do have is an incredible diversity of professional, intellectual, international, and life experience – which is more than one could say for the Rose Revolution team in 2003.
Majority representative David Darchiashvili, unsurprisingly, has released a series of dismissive statements about the initiative group, doubting that their policies will attract Georgians. He also pointed out the very real hurdle to Georgian Dream – Ivanishvili's lack of Georgian citizenship. The billionaire intends to lead the party list this fall, and will fight to see his citizenship restored in the meantime. However, he has also announced a Plan B – his wife, Eka Khvedelidze, will stand in his stead if he remains ineligible for higher office.
In the meantime, the ruling United National Movement (UNM) is wasting no time attempting to discredit Ivanishvili and his team. Their most popular slander is that Ivanishvili is a Russian stooge, and that Georgian Dream will not fight for the country's sovereignty. Two private, national television channels, Imedi and Rustavi 2, as well the as Public Broadcaster, have been complicit in this goal. There have also been reports of Ivanishvili supporters being intimidated in the regions.
President Saakashvili intends to give a speech to Parliament at the end of February, where he will announce new policy directions, social programs, and public spending. It is doubtful, though, that any of his initiatives will be implemented before the elections – yet their promise may be enough to win him the support he needs.
With every well-calculated action, Ivanishvili tries to create political force that is strong enough – and persuasive enough – to beat the UNM. Yet it is too early to tell if his "slow and steady wins the race" approach will gain him the power he needs to defeat Saakashvili – or if the personal and political challenges he faces are simply insurmountable.