Leader of Georgian Dream opposition coalition, Bidzina Ivanishvili, held a large outdoor rally in Black Sea resort town of Batumi on August 5.
Addressing thousands of supporters, gathered under a rainy sky in Adjara Autonomous Republic’s main town, Ivanishvili reiterated his coalition’s key pre-election promises ranging from agriculture development to social protection and healthcare.
In his speech Ivanishvili accused President Saakashvili, whom he described as “a coward man”, of trying to turn people against each other and of sowing confrontation in the society. Ivanishvili said that the incident in a small mountainous resort of Beshumi in Adjara on August 4 was part of this attempt by Saakashvili.
“Saakashvili has managed to also set clergy against each other,” he said.
“The nationwide broadcasters are permanently boasting with those senior clerics who are praising Saakashvili, while [reporting] in openly aggressive [tone] about those [clerics], who dared to voice support towards the Georgian Dream,” Ivanishvili said. “We will put an end to this confrontation and we will free the Church from any political pressure and I promise that the state will never meddle in the Church’s internal affairs.”
In his speech Ivanishvili commented on Saakashvili’s August 4 remarks, when the President said he would not hand the country over to “politicians of the past”. Ivanishvili said: “I do not know any other government of any country, which would dare to declare so publicly that it is not intending to go away and to willingly transfer power to the people. I do not know any other government capable to say it publicly, except of the Soviet one.”
He also said that accusing him of having nostalgia for the Soviet period was part of the authorities’ smear campaign against him.
“This lie will not work either, because everyone knows very well that my success was determined by the end of existence of the Soviet Union,” said Ivanishvili, who made his fortune during Russia’s privatization era.
“The authorities are also accusing me of wanting to bring Russia into [Georgia],” he continued. “It was the leader of these very same authorities, Saakashvili, who has already brought Russian troops into the Georgian territory as a result of his reckless policies; our occupied territories and hundreds of lost villages serve as a confirmation of this.”
Ivanishvili reiterated that he would “definitely” secure return of Georgian products back on the Russian markets. He blamed Russia’s decision to close its market for the Georgian products in 2006 on Saakashvili’s “reckless” rhetoric against Moscow.
In his speech Ivanishvili also addressed a recent controversy about yet to be signed deal between Georgia and Turkey on rebuilding of an old mosque in Batumi in exchange for reconstruction of several medieval Georgian Orthodox churches now located on the territory of Turkey. Proposal to rebuild the mosque in Batumi has met fierce opposition from some groups in Georgia, as well as from the Georgian Orthodox Church. Georgian Dream’s majoritarian MP candidate running in Batumi single-mandate constituency, Murman Dumbadze, is among the strong opponents of this potential deal between Georgia and Turkey. Republican Party, which is now a member of Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream coalition, sacked Dumbadze from its ranks more than a year ago after he, without authorization from his party, organized a protest rally against this potential agreement. In his speech Ivanishvili did not provide his clear cut position about the issue, instead said that the Georgian Dream would tackle “this painful and ticklish issue” openly and transparently immediately after coming into power.
“Christians and Muslims should live side by side in equal and dignified conditions. I know that you are concerned not about construction of yet another mosque, but you are concerned about the authorities’ very suspicious steps,” Ivanishvili said.
Ivanishvili vowed that in case of victory in the October 1 parliamentary elections, his opposition coalition would change the existing labor code. “Promoting investments is very good, but it should not be happening at the expense of our citizens… We will change the labor code so that not a single employer will be able to infringe rights of an employee anymore. We will restore legal balance between an employer and an employee,” he said.
Addressing issue of large-scale construction and renovation works undergoing in Batumi, the town which once was described by Saakashvili as his “daughter”, Ivanishvili said that such projects should be carried out without harming authenticity of local urban architecture.
He said that the Georgian Dream coalition would hold its next large-scale outdoor campaign rally in Rustavi on August 19.