- ‘I hope to astonish Europe with level of democracy in Georgia’;
- ‘Elections won’t be legitimate if I am barred from politics’
- Russia carried out ‘unheard-of aggression’ against Georgia;
- Georgia should find a role ‘comfortable for U.S. and Europe, and acceptable for Russia’
- ‘More democratic Russia would be more interesting for U.S., EU’;
- ‘It's very likely that next Russian gov’t will implement real democratic reforms’
Billionaire philanthropist, Bidzina Ivanishvili, who announced about the intention to set up a political party to run in next year’s parliamentary elections, has vowed to create a level of democracy in Georgia that would “astonish Europe”.
In his first media interview since 2005 and his first-ever in front of TV camera, Ivanishvili told Reuters, that the Georgian authorities’ decision to strip him of his Georgian citizenship was an attempt to bar him from the politics.
“They tried to exclude me from the political process, but I'm not going to stop,” he said. “Election, which they [the authorities] plan to hold this way – by excluding me [from the politics] - won't be legitimate.”
Ivanishvili said last week he would appeal the court with a request to annul presidential order through which he had lost his Georgian citizenship. He said he had “no illusions” about fairness of the Georgian court, but that was “the only right path.”
Reuters interview with Ivanishvili was recorded on October 14 and released on October 17. It was recorded in billionaire’s USD 50 million worth “business center”, designed by Japanese architect Shin Takamatsu, where works by Damien Hirst and Roy Lichtenstein hang in the halls and whose courtyard is dotted with sculptures by Zaha Hadid, Anish Kapoor and Henry Moore.
In the interview he reiterated intention to unite all the “healthy” opposition forces in order to win absolute majority of seats in the Parliament. “With a probability of at least 90 percent we will enter parliament with an absolute majority,” he told the Reuters.
He, however, said it was now too early to say whether he would create an electoral bloc or it would be one party. “Consultations with some of the healthy opposition forces in Georgia are under way,” he said.
Last week Ivanishvili signaled readiness to have cooperation with Irakli Alasania’s Our Georgia-Free Democrats and Republican Party, led by Davit Usupashvili. On October 17 Ivanishvili met with leaders from the National Forum. The latter said it would cooperate with Ivanishvili; no statement was yet made on this issue by Ivanishvili’s press office.
Ivanishvili, who says that eyes either the post of PM or Parliamentary Chairman, said he would carry out constitutional and judicial reforms after coming into power.
“I hope to astonish Europe with the level of democracy that I will create in Georgia,” he said. “It will be such a real democracy that even Europeans will want to invest in Georgia.”
Russia’s 'Unheard-of Aggression'
Ivanishvili said that in August, 2008 Russia carried out “unheard-of aggression” against Georgia, but said Saakashvili's reckless foreign policy had provoked the conflict.
He also told Reuters, that Georgia should find a role that is “comfortable for the United States and Europe, and acceptable for Russia.”
He said Russia was not “the worst example of an undemocratic state” and Russia’s PM Vladimir Putin, who plans to return as the President in next year’s elections, was a popular leader in Russia.
“The Russian people like this man [Putin]. It's their business, their choice, although a more democratic Russia would be more interesting for Europe and for the United States,” he said. “It's very likely that the next Russian government will launch a fight against corruption, will seek a rapprochement with the West and implement real democratic reforms.”
Ivanishvili, who announced about the intention to sell his assets in Russia, said that he realized it would not be able to sell his businesses in Russia at maximum prices.