"We have no other oligarch but Ivanishvili" - Georgian President speaks out against Bidzina Ivanishvili
Georgian President speaks out against Ivanishvili
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has for the first time openly spoken out against Bidzina Ivanishvili, believed to be the country’s informal ruler, and founder of the ruling Georgian Dream party. In an interview with Le Monde, Zurabishvili talked about de-oligarchization and Bidzina Ivanishvili’s role in the country’s politics. Asked whether she considers Ivanishvili an oligarch, the president replied that Ivanishvili is and has been the only oligarch in Georgian politics.
“I don’t know what his real interference in the economic affairs of the country is. All this is absolutely not transparent, but it is obvious that it has a dominant influence on the current authorities. There is no other oligarch in Georgian politics today except Ivanishvili,” Zurabishvili said.
According to the Georgian president, the way to implement the EU recommendation on “de-oligarchization” is dismantling of the one-party system. Zurabishvili said that Georgia has had a one-party system of government for thirty years, and de-oligarchization means that “the country needs the freest possible elections” with a real coalition of pro-European orientation.
“Ivanishvili is an oligarchy enriched in Russia”
Salome Zurabishvili says Ivanishvili is an oligarch who has enriched himself in Russia, who believes in its imminent victory in a bi-polar world, and has developed his strategy accordingly:
“He is an oligarch who has accumulated wealth in Russia. And his past directly influences his mentality. Today the world is divided in two. Ivanishvili is in the ranks of those who cannot imagine that Russia will be defeated, so he is trying to adapt in advance to a Russian victory, which could become even more aggressive. Relatively young people, educated in Europe, who are now in power in Georgia, under Ivanishvili’s influence show weakness and take a flattering stance towards Russia. This is a poor perception of the new geopolitical situation.”
According to the President of Georgia, Georgian youth thinks that Russia will never be what it used to be because it has already lost militarily and in terms of prestige. Finland and Sweden have joined NATO, and the integration of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia into the EU will soon accelerate. According to Zurabishvili, all this is happening “by the grace” of Russia and “thanks” to it, as “our agenda was not designed for such a rapid pace.”
“In the end, Russia has lost,” the president said.
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“Ivanishvili did not play a positive role in accelerating our path to the EU.”
According to the Georgian president, Bidzina Ivanishvili may have played a negative role in speeding up the path to the European Union. However, as Zurabishvili notes, he played an important role in her presidency.
“It may have played a negative role [towards the EU], suggesting that it will inspire those in power when they make bad decisions. For example, such as my impeachment, which could not have happened without it. And if they succeeded, it would have played an extremely negative role in European decision-making.”
When asked by a journalist, “It was thanks to him that you came to power. What are you accused of?”, the president replied, “Probably the fact that I don’t depend on him.”
“It is clear that without the support of the dominant party, as an independent candidate, I would not have had any leverage to be elected. What he accuses me of is probably that I am not in his hands as a member of the ruling Georgian Dream party,” Zurabishvili said.
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President on impeachment and visits
In an interview with Le Monde, Salome Zurabishvili also talked about the impeachment process against her initiated by the Georgian Dream.
Asked if the president can feel free after the impeachment attempt failed, Zurabishvili said that “threats remain.”
“I objected to these accusations in the Constitutional Court, despite the fact that it, like other institutions in Georgia, is itself less independent. Today it is already a closed case. But the threats remain. Maybe they will find something else. But there is no doubt that I will not stop traveling [to Europe without the government’s consent],” Zurabishvili said.
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Communication with Ivanishvili
When asked whether she communicates with Ivanishvili, Zurabishvili said that she has not spoken to him for about three years. She also added that before that they had only talked about foreign policy and in general Ivanishvili prefers not to speak his own views:
“When I came back from my trip to the EU countries, I came to share my opinion on what we should do. It was more of a monologue than a real dialogue. No one knows what he is really thinking.”