Less than a month until the elections – Ivanishvili appeals to the public for one last chance
Chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party Bidzina Ivanishvili made his first public comments since the 28 October elections, when for the first time in the history of Georgia, a president was not elected in the first round of voting.
In a televised address, Ivanishvili asked voters to make the “right choice” in the upcoming second round which will take place before 2 December.
Not once did he mention the government-supported presidential candidate Salome Zourabichvili in his speech.
He appealed to former supporters and asked for their aid. He also said that Georgian Dream needed personnel changes and promised to personally resolve the matter within a year.
Unaddressed problems in the country
Ivanishvili has admitted for the first time in public that there are a number of problems plaguing the country, and that this affected the mood of the voters.
Political commentators say that the fact that Ivanishvili’s candidate, Salome Zourabichvili, was unable to win in the first round has been a big blow for the party, and for Ivanishvili as well.
His speech was mainly aimed at voters who either did not go to the polls or did not vote for the pro-government candidate.
Ivanishvili said citizens have a feeling of hopelessness: “They say ‘the situation will not change’, ‘most leaders care about themselves but not about the population’ and ‘the current government failed to restore justice’.”
Ivanishvili further said that he returned to politics several months ago after seeing these problems.
“It turned out that the people saw these problems more deeply and clearly. Today I cannot disagree with this,” he stated.
Ivanishvili also said that the most important thing was “that the future of the country not be punished because of [the public’s] issues with the authorities or individual authorities, otherwise everything that has been done at such a heavy price since 2012 will be for nought”.
Ivanishvili focused on several issues:
“Pensioners and refugees’ income should be revised”
Ivanishvili said that all payments to pensioners and refugees should be radically revised. He did not, however, specify how this will be done:
“Unlike the populists, of course, I’m not going to talk about numbers, but I’ll definitely say that we need to increase our concern for them because of our dignity.”
“The personnel hiring policy will change”
Ivanishvili also touched upon issues of personnel changes, but again failed to specify what changes would be made:
“The personnel policy should be changed soon. It should rely on experienced people and help attract new staff, especially young people, who should be involved in the management of the state and political processes.”
On Grigol Vashadze and the United National Movement: “their victory is a threat to stability”
Ivanishvili said that the country today stands at a historical crossroad and that the people must make the right choice between Georgian Dream and the United National Movement.
“Our rival is not a political party. Today, unfortunately, there are again executioners and rapists united for revenge,” Ivanishvili said.
“The country cannot be given into the hands of a force that seeks to destroy all values due to mistakes made by Georgian Dream,” Ivanishvili appealed.
“They do not want to correct mistakes! They want one thing: to destroy everything, and the saddest thing – at any price!”
Ivanishvili said that the country’s future depends on who the people elect as president – simultaneously pointing out that, according to the constitution, the future president will be weak and limited in rights:
“[The UNM] shamelessly promises the population that which does not fit into the parliamentary structure of the state and does not relate to presidential functions at all.”
In his speech, Ivanishvili reiterated concerns expressed by MPs of the ruling party about possible destabilization in the country in the event of the victory of the UNM. He said that the opposition candidate openly stated that he will release former high-ranking officials who were convicted of violence and abuse of authority [former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili and former Defence Minister Bacho Akhalaya] from prison, which he believes are direct threats to stability.
On problems in his own party: “I will personally resolve problems existing in the country within one year”
Ivanishvili said he would “personally resolve problems existing in the country within one year”.
“I will take on the responsibility of eliminating all mistakes in management within one year and use all of my resources so that the development of the country becomes irreversible,” Ivanishvili said.
He again addressed the internal problems of the party, saying he is ready to personally go up against the party if he sees that it does not serve the interests of the people:
“Our political association exists only to serve the people. Therefore, if Georgian Dream doesn’t work, if some of its subdivisions are not suitable to serving the people, I will be the first to go against them,” Ivanishvili said.
At this stage, Ivanishvili holds the post of party chairman. He did not explain how he intends to solve the problems he mentioned nor what he would need to do.
To former colleagues: “You are needed again!”
Ivanishvili also appealed to former political figures who were members of the Georgian Dream coalition who had left after coming into conflict with him, and referred to them as “the old guard”.
“Georgia once again needs your unanimity, your experience and your civil heroism. I know about your concerns, I know all the causes of what you have taken offense to. I promise – every patriot will find his place according to his merits in our common family, no one will be left without attention!”