Georgian politics heat up – founder of largest bank announces civic movement
Co-founder of the largest commercial bank in Georgia, Mamuka Khazaradze, has announced the creation of a ‘civic movement’, slated for September.
TBC Bank co-founder Khazaradze announced the news today on Facebook, stating that the main goal of the pro-Western movement will be the unification of the country and the preservation of independence.
Against the background of the parliamentary elections scheduled for 2020 in Georgia, this decision of a businessman who is in open conflict with the informal ruler of the country, Bidzina Ivanishvili, is of particular interest.
In his letter, Khazaradze criticizes the authorities and declares that “the processes taking place recently in the country are becoming alarming”.
Khazaradze says “there is a purposeful process of division and opposition in society.”
Khazaradze says that neither the current authorities or other political parties are capable of de-escalating the current situation, for which the consolidation of the public is necessary.
In September, Khazaradze says he will “unite a healthy, progressive and pro-western society” and invites those who share “the idea of building a modern Western state in Georgia” to this union.
Khazaradze says he will establish a movement together with his “friends and like-minded people, professionals from different fields.”
The statement does not indicate who exactly the businessman has in mind. All that is known is that his business partner and friend Badri Japaridze will be in the movement.
Khazaradze says that the night of June 20 pushed him towards this step, and said the day has become a dividing line. Khazaradze has announced his public support for the protesters [ed. on the night of June 20, special forces brutally dispersed a rally on Rustaveli Avenue].
“Our sincere and free youth expressed a sincere and firm protest against the Russian occupation and violence,” writes Khazaradze.
On June 20, a demonstration was held in front of the parliament, where the crowds protested the Russian occupation [ed. that is, that Russia has recognised the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Georgia considers its own territory and with which a majority of the global community agrees – JAMnews] Khazaradze wrote about this on his Facebook page:
“Long live unanimity in the struggle for the freedom of the country!”
And after Russia suspended flights with Georgia, Mamuka Khazaradze, in order to promote the tourism industry, expressed his willingness to finance ten Airzena charter flights for Ukrainian tourists from Kiev to Tbilisi.
Khazaradze’s stand off with the authorities
The scandal concerning Georgia’s largest bank began last summer.
The Prosecutor General’s Office was investigating transactions made at TBC Bank over the past 11 years, which now include the former chairman of the supervisory board of the bank, Mamuka Khazaradze, and his deputy Badri Japaridze.
During the audit, the prosecutor’s office claims that evidence of money laundering was uncovered – $17 million dollars worth.
From the very beginning of the investigation, the public has discussed the notion that the case against Khazaradze is politically motivated.
Many hypotheses have been put forward, given that it is unlikely that the prosecutor’s office would decide to ‘disturb’ one of the country’s main financial institutions without the consent of the informal ruler Bidzina Ivanishvili.
Some experts say that Ivanishvili sees a political rival in Khazaradze and is trying to clear his way to a victory in the 2020 parliamentary elections.
Others say that Khazaradze was punished for being a friend of the former prime minister, at one time favorite of Ivanishvili, who later fell into disgrace and was dismissed from his post – Giorgi Kvirikashvili.
Mamuka Khazaradze tried to regulate the spoiled relations with Ivanishvili and prove his loyalty during the last presidential elections by supporting pro-government candidate Salome Zurabishvili (the bank even called on its employees to support the pro-government candidate, in a special statement).
But the fact is that for Ivanishvili the attempts of Khazaradze proved insufficient and not convincing.
The investigation concerning the bank has not yet been completed, many experts believe that Khazaradze is going into politics to save himself.
One of the most significant infrastructure projects in modern Georgia is also associated with the name Khazaradze – the deep sea port in Anaklia.
Experts and politicians
Few doubt that Mamuka Khazaradze’s ‘civic movement’ has political aims.
Economist Gia Khukhashvili says the authorities have pushed Khazaradze to this decision.
“In fact, the authorities didn’t leave Khazaradze another way out by their thoughtless actions. I welcome his appearance in the political space, since the ruling team, which has lost the trust of the population, is betting on the monopolization of resources. And in Mamuka, an alternative resource center appears and this can become an insurmountable problem for the authorities”, Gia Khukhashvili said in an interview with Kommersant.
Member of the parliamentary majority Sopho Kiladze is also confident that the Khazaradze movement has political goals.
“But I don’t think he will have a lot of support,” said the MP.
One of the leaders of the opposition United National Movement party, MP Roman Gotsiridze, says that Mamuka Khazaradze has a good start in order to form a political player, but in his opinion this alone is not enough.
The MP says that the activation of Khazaradze should not mean that “one oligarch will be replaced by another.“
“Khazaradze, as a person with large financial capital, should not be associated with lobbying business circles. On the contrary, it is necessary to emphasize that a healthy political system should be formed in Georgia and the dominance of the rich should stop once and for all”, Gotsiridze said.
The founder of TBC Bank did not specify who will make up the campaign of the movement – various sources speculate that the former Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili may be on the Khazaradze team.