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How to identify an oligarch

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Thursday, October 13, 2022
A controversy began in Georgian politics regarding the "de-oligarchization law" presented by the ruling party. It says what the "Georgian Dream" has been talking about for a long time - Bidzina Ivanishvili is not an oligarch and "de-oligarchization" does not apply to him.

The opposition is going to present an alternative bill, according to which "deolegargization" means "debedinization".

"Georgian Dream" gained an advantage in the current controversy regarding the de-oligarchization law, as it was the first to present the relevant draft law and plans to start the discussion in the parliament, while the opposition was late, as they could not agree on a number of issues during the development of the alternative draft law.

The US ambassador's statement that the law of another country cannot be directly copied and that local specifics should be taken into account, caused the indignation of the first members of "Georgian Dream", because they saw in this statement the actual support of the opposition.

According to the representatives of "Georgian Dream", in order to consider a specific person as an oligarch, all the criteria that are in the similar law of Ukraine were written down in the project: 1. Influence on the media; 2. Impact on political and public life; 3. Monopolistic activity; 4. Owning a specific amount of money (say, $85 million).

If any person meets three of these four criteria, he is considered an oligarch. Unlike the law of Ukraine, where recognition of a person as an oligarch is the job of the president, in Georgia it will be done by the chairman of the parliament.

Representatives of "Georgian Dream" state in advance that Bidzina Ivanishvili does not meet the criteria established in the law: according to them, Ivanishvili does not influence the media, does not interfere in politics and is engaged in charity work.

Instead, "Georgian Dream" found many oligarchs in the ranks of the opposition. According to them, Kezerashvili, leaders of "Lelo" and other representatives of the opposition perform all three components first.

For the opposition, the said bill of "Georgian Dream" is unacceptable, as it was already said, they continued to work on their own bill, but they have already defined two criteria for finding an oligarch:

1. Possession of a large amount of money and 2. The fact that persons related to such a person hold high positions in the government.

Whoever the rich financiers of the opposition are, the richest person in Georgia is Bidzina Ivanishvili. As of October 2, 2022, this person is on the 400th place in the ranking of billionaires by "Bloomberg". His fortune is estimated at 5.45 billion dollars, and compared to the same period in 2021, it has decreased by 600 million dollars.

The opposition does not agree with the criteria of "Georgian Dream" and considers them unacceptable. According to the statement of the opposition, an oligarch is not just a rich person or even a person who influences politics, but only a person who has the levers of influence on the government should be considered an oligarch.

The "opposition" oligarchs found by the "Georgian Dream" cannot be considered as such, because they have no influence on the ruling "Georgian Dream". Those close to Bidzina Ivanishvili or her former employees are in this party and in state positions.

"Georgian Dream" has prepared a draft law on de-oligarchization, but now it must be discussed in the parliament. The main part of the remaining oppositionists in the parliament (if we do not count the "European socialists") have a negative attitude towards this draft law.

According to the representatives of the opposition, "Georgian Dream" can take advantage of the majority at its disposal, adopt its own developed law and repress some representatives of the opposition who meet the "three criteria" on the charge of "de-oligarchization".

"Georgian Dream" will have the opportunity to hold a discussion with the representatives of the West, if they resent the Georgian law. After all, the Georgian law is only similar to Ukraine, which is approved by the West.

However, this development of events will cause discontent in the West as well, so it is possible that the matter will not come before the adoption of the law. The representatives of "Georgian Dream" have already announced that they will not accept the presented bill on de-oligarchization without the consent of the opposition.

In such a case, the de-oligarchization law stipulated by the 12 demands of the European Union should not be adopted and its non-acceptance should be blamed on the opposition. Before the consideration of the draft law in the parliament or during the consideration period, it is important for the opposition to fix an alternative draft law, which will give their criticism a more positive character.