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Ivanishvili's Open Letter
Tbilisi / 21 Nov.'13 / 15:14

November 21, 2013

Official translation provided by Ivanishvili's press office

In this letter, I would like to answer the only remaining question that a part of Georgian, as well as European and American, society has after my departure from politics, that is, whether or not I plan to govern the country behind the scenes.

Since the day I entered politics, more than one absurd accusation has been made against me, from being a Kremlin agent to distributing refrigerators for election purposes, not to mention the slanderous statement that I came into politics to save my fortune or to come into possession of large hydroelectric stations.

And now, after having already left politics, I would like to respond to this final nonsense suggesting that I intend to govern the country behind the scenes and influence the government.  And when referring to influence, unfortunately, only its negative context is usually implied.

My whole life and my biography prove that I have never committed a single disgraceful deed.

I happen to have spent the greatest part of my life and carried out my activities in Russia.  It was indeed the toughest period, as business was developing rapidly, vast properties were alienated in a very short period of time, and things were often handled quite recklessly.  It was difficult to conduct business transparently and lawfully in this environment.  Nonetheless, my business was exemplary and absolutely transparent.  My opponents, including foreigners, have tried hard to find flaws and blemishes in my business, yet to no avail.  I have never broken the law.  Moreover, I have never violated contractual obligations or failed to come through with my promises.

All questions related to my twenty-year-long activities in Russia were answered by me in an interview with Vedomosti, an influential publication.  It was the only interview I gave before coming into politics.  All those interested in this issue can find this interview and see for themselves what kind of reputation I had in Russia and among business circles (see links in the Georgian, Russian, and English languages at http://pirweli.com.ge/?menuid=16&id=47824; http://www.pirweli.com.ge/en/?menuid=16&id=3036; http://pirweli.com.ge/rus/?menuid=16&id=8441).

My main signature trait has always been transparency. It applies to both business and politics.  When a new government came into power in our country in 2003, I provided them with consultations at their own request. I met with Saakashvili on numerous occasions in the course of three years. These meetings were facilitated at his request, of course. Neither Saakashvili nor any member of his team will be able to recall a single instance when I would address them with a personal request or meet with them to lobby my personal interests. I always provided them with recommendations that were necessary for my country, my state, and not for me personally.

I financed a fund on my own accord, which paid the salaries to the government and the parliament in their entirety for over thirty months, so that the country would deliver itself of the mire of corruption and embark on the path to European development.

I also provided Merabishvili with recommendations, helped the police procure patrol vehicles, but never weapons. I supported our armed forces, building barracks and purchasing clothes for our soldiers. And my adamant position was the same in that case as well, ensuring against purchasing weapons with the assistance provided by me.

I have never participated in the appointment of one or another minister or prime minister.  I always abstained from interfering with this business. In other words, even when I was not a public figure and indeed had connections among senior government officials “behind the scenes”, I never attempted to “govern behind the scenes”.

Within the two years in politics, we established a team. Members of this team know me very well. I met a lot of people and made friends with many. Quite a few of them even criticize me. However, no one would accuse me of holding double standards in my personal life or at work. No one can recall a single instance of my engagement in some games behind the scenes. On the contrary, sometimes my teammates themselves criticize me “behind the scenes” for being overly straightforward and open to public view for a politician.

Any member of our team, any minister was free to the maximum extent possible.  I never enforced anything on them, being an advocate of debates and common sense only.  This is my working style. I never govern behind the scenes. I would never insult my country and my team – for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect – by doing so.

From now on, I will be an active member of our society. My activities will be absolutely transparent. And I will have a certain amount of influence, of course. At the same time, I do not look at this influence as something blameworthy. Quite the opposite, I will try to enhance this influence. How else can one be an active member of civil society?

Public influence on the government is of immense importance, being a primary sign of a healthy political system, that is, democracy, as this influence implies the accountability of the authorities to the people, society, and feedback between them.

Ultimately, society is a unity of active citizens, individuals. Naturally, the political influence of a citizen enjoying a high level of public trust will be proportionately high. And why would not this rule apply to such a citizen if he or she is a former politician like me? Why would something viewed as absolutely normal in democratic countries fail to work in Georgia and be considered a threat?

Human rights, European values, Euro-Atlantic aspirations, the fact that America should be our strategic partner; the fact that we must reset relations with our neighbors, including Russia: these are the values I cherish.  And if someone is against it, yes, he or she should be concerned, as I will surely exercise influence in this direction.

I have reiterated my respect for and commitment to these values on numerous occasions.  Moreover, I even signed our coalition’s declaration which is fully built upon these values.  I have always cherished these values.  And I have no intention to answer those who believe that at the age of fifty-seven I will change my take on these values.

I have never had any other interests besides my country’s progress and European development.  It is a well-known fact that I do not own – and I have no intention of owning – any businesses in Georgia.  Then how can I have any other motivation besides serving my country?

If I succeed in exercising influence over the government in terms of the country’s progress toward Europe, this should be welcomed by all.
 
I will not hold back public support, recommendations, or criticism from the government which I have created together with our people and for which I have assumed responsibility.

I would like to declare publicly that influence over a given country’s life and politics, as exercised by leaders after leaving politics, is a normal phenomenon and accepted tradition in democratic countries.  There are plenty of examples.  One may recall many politicians whose influence on politics has lasted for decades, and this does not scare anyone.

I believe that our Western partners do not need to be reminded that the influence of such think-tanks on politics, especially in the United States, is so strong that it takes the governments of a number of countries a great deal of diplomatic efforts to ensure goodwill and trust on the part of these brain trusts, which often equals enjoying the benevolence of the acting administration.  As a rule, former politicians lay the foundation for such think tanks.

And yet, the greatest absurdity ascribed to me is my alleged fear, my alleged desire to flee from responsibility, this being the reason behind my departure from politics.  There might be a fear of losing one’s office.  However, what does fear have to do with it all if I resigned anyway?

I was not afraid when I made a decision to enter politics amid the toughest conditions, when our country was facing a danger of years under an authoritarian regime; when total despair and despondency took hold of our society; when the opposition forces were razed to the ground.  It was exactly then that I put my life, my family, and my children’s safety on the line and made a decision to save my country.

I succeeded in consolidating the healthiest part of political forces, putting together our society, and forcing Saakashvili’s regime to yield power peacefully and without shedding blood.  And now, after having brought democratic forces into power, I resign at the peak of my powers. This is probably difficult for many to comprehend, as no one can name a precedent of a politician taking this step.

Maybe this is what confuses some. After all, the main motivation, task, and goal of any political party or political leader is to come into power, govern the country, and manage issues of national importance in compliance with his or her views.

I would like to address everyone. Let us not remain captive to nearly universal stereotypes.  We must come to believe that a person may be in possession of excessive wealth and yet his or her heart and soul may be someplace else, as there is a higher value he or she cherishes, and this value implies being a free citizen of one’s free homeland.  Fulfilling this dream was the reason behind my temporary entry into politics and my departure from [the politics] serves the same purpose. In reality, things are much simpler than they seem.

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