The messenger logo

De-Oligarchization Interpreted, Misinterpreted

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Monday, June 27, 2022
The European Commission has postponed granting Georgia EU membership status and gave it 6 months to meet 12 conditions. Among these conditions, the most highlighted one is the demand for de-oligarchization. Due to the fact that no specific oligarch was mentioned in the text of the resolution, the government and the opposition interpreted the commission’s recommendation differently. The oligarch for the opposition is Bidzina Ivanishvili, while the Georgian Dream is looking for oligarchs in the opposition.

The recommendations made to Georgia by the European Commission on June 17 mention the commitment to de-oligarchization in the economic, political and social spheres. The recommendation is general but was preceded by a European Parliament resolution naming a specific oligarch, Bidzina Ivanishvili, and emphasizing his ‘destructive role’ in Georgia's politics and economy, and in exercising control over the government and its decisions. The European Parliament called on the Council and its Democratic partners to consider imposing personal sanctions on Ivanishvili “because of the role he has played in worsening the political process in Georgia.”

The European Parliament resolution strongly outraged the Georgian Dream and unanimously defended Bidzina Ivanishvili, who they said had “left politics for a long time" and was only involved in charity. However, the European Commission resolution did not provoke any outrage from the Georgian Dream.

The disappearance of Ivanishvili's mention of the European Commission's de-oligarchization recommendation allowed the Georgian Dream to maneuver and actively work on an anti-oligarchic law - the status of an oligarch was considered inappropriate for Bidzina Ivanishvili and the oligarchs were found in the ranks of the opposition.

Irakli Kobakhidze, the chairman of the Georgian Dream, said at the June 21 plenary session of the parliament that if the de-oligarchization law developed in Ukraine came into force in Georgia, the leaders of Lelo would be recognized as oligarchs. “Oligarchs greet you and prepare for de-oligarchization,” Irakli Kobakhidze told the opposition.

In a speech to parliament on June 22, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili thanked Bidzina Ivanishvili for his great contribution to Georgia's development and increased the list of government oligarchs - adding Mikheil Saakashvili's mother - Giuli Alasania - and his uncle to the four named by Irakli Kobakhidze.

It seems that the Georgian Dream liked the demand for de-oligarchization among the recommendations of the European Commission and will actively use it to fight against the ‘radical opposition’. Saakashvili, who is in prison, is now also called an oligarch, and others of the above-mentioned opposition members have been jailed on this new charge.

Opposition groups called on the West to impose sanctions on Bidzina Ivanishvili, but now that the Georgian Dream is actively seeking de-oligarchization against the opposition, it may demand a clear statement from the European Union that it is incumbent on Bidzina Ivanishvili and impose sanctions on him.

According to the opposition, it is already clear that the Georgian Dream will not meet the requirements of the European Commission. De-oligarchization means de-ethnicization" and without fulfilling it, in fact, no other requirements of the European Commission will be fulfilled.

For example, Sergo Chikhladze, a representative of Strategy Builder, says that the 12 recommendations of the European Commission are possible to be implemented by the end of the year, but the Georgian Dream will not implement these reforms. Therefore, the first task is de-oligarchization, removing Bidzina Ivanishvili and the Georgian Dream from power.

It is possible to change the government in Georgia through early elections.

“We were directly told to achieve de-oligarchization in 6 months, translated into the political language, it is snap parliamentary elections that will legitimately lead to the new government,” said former Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili. It is also clear that the Georgian Dream does not feel responsible for the separation of Georgia from Ukraine and Moldova, nor does Prime Minister Gharibashvili intend to resign, and therefore does not intend to hold snap elections.

Georgia has the next parliamentary elections scheduled no earlier than 2024. The elections should be held in a proportional system, but the electoral threshold should be reduced, which is in the interests of small parties.

Holding single, even numerous, rallies is not an accountable thing for the Georgian Dream. “They will gather but soon give up”, - this is the attitude of the government. The Prime Minister's parliamentary speech once again showed the “high degree of polarization.” The opposition’s sole way remains organizing rallies, which is not an easy task.

As a number of experts point out, the opposition is weaker than the government in this regard, and the Georgian Dream will be ready to use force if it deems it necessary. However, predicting the development of events is a reluctant task, especially in the Georgian reality.