Ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili said in a lengthy newspaper interview that he will become more active in public life, and also spoke on issues ranging from how current PM Irakli Garibashvili asked for his advice before reshuffling the cabinet to developments in Ukraine.
He said in the interview, recorded on September 10 and published by weekly Kviris Palitra on September 15, that in overall, although opposition UNM party “makes uproar with its machinery of lies” and there is “no synchrony” within the ruling GD coalition, “the state functions, and develops in the right direction.”
Ivanishvili and Reshuffled Cabinet
He said that although PM Irakli Garibashvili asked for his advice before reshuffling the cabinet in July, all the new ministers were selected by the incumbent prime minister himself.
“Generally, I would characterize the government’s work as successful and of course, first and foremost, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili is successful,” Ivanishvili said. “I am not saying that the government’s work is perfect, but today Georgia has efficient executive authorities and efficient Prime Minister.”
“I would also note that the processes ongoing in the government are under comprehensive public scrutiny, though this oversight has to be improved,” he said.
“Before the government reshuffle, Garibashvili asked for my opinion, but I did not show interest and did not tell him to act this or that way. My attitude remains unchanged - when I transferred the Prime Minister’s post to Garibashvili, I did not set any conditions to him. I told Garibashvili the same this time – now he is the Prime Minister and if he sees the necessity of government reshuffle, he should act so. I also told him that if he asks about specific minister or ministry, I will express my opinion; though the less he asks, the better for me, I told him. I am not much interested in, for example, who will be the culture minister, though some key ministries – for example, healthcare ministry, interior ministry, etc. – are more interesting for me. Garibashvili appointed [Alexander Tchikaidze as] the interior minister and it was absolutely his [Garibashvili’s] own choice. I did not know that man [Tchikaidze] before. I think that it was a normal choice,” Ivanishvili said.
“If any minister does not justify expectations, the Prime Minister has the right to replace them. But probably it is better not to have the need for cabinet reshuffles frequently. The main thing for a prime minister, a political leader is not to change position,” Ivanishvili said and added that Garibashvili is a “composed” person, who “does not change his position often.”
“I prefer to think about the country’s 15, 20-year development perspective and economy on which I spend most of my time rather than about which ministers Garibashvili will replace by whom,” he said.
“All the ministers [in the reshuffled cabinet] were selected by Garibashvili himself. He only asked for my assistance in regards to minister of culture, though I could not help him – we have tried almost entire Georgia [while selecting a candidate for culture minister], but finally the minister’s candidate was selected by Garibashvili himself,” Ivanishvili said.
Ivanishvili as TV Talk Show Host – ‘Low Probability’
Ivanishvili said that he’s planning two “large scale projects” – one targeting school pupils, focusing on citizenship education and promoting notion of responsible citizen, and another one targeting university students to encourage youth’s engagement in local self-governance.
He also said that he wants to become “more active” in public life, “to voice my position on various problems more often”, but added that he’s still searching for the best way how to do it.
“I want to participate in analyzing the ongoing processes and to engage in discussions about the Georgian society’s development strategy. In a month at the earlier and no later than New Year I will participate in one of the projects, but I do not want to draw your attention to this issue for now. I promise to the society to become more active because the society needs it. The key problem today is that a part of the society has unreal expectations; reality is misperceived,” Ivanishvili said.
It was reported in July that Ivanishvili was planning to co-host a TV talk show tentatively from October.
Ivanishvili said that it may really happen, but there is a “low probability” of that. “I have not yet made a final decision,” he said.
Criticizing Broadcasters for ‘Parroting’ Rustavi 2 TV
Ivanishvili said that the government “should not dare to meddle in media’s work and we all should tolerate criticism from media with patience.” He also said that criticizing media should not be a taboo either and journalists, who are “ordinary members of the society, should also be subject of oversight and criticism.”
He again criticized and accused Rustavi 2 TV of being opposition UNM’s mouthpiece, but said that he has more complaints against other TV channels, among them Imedi TV, Maestro, as well as public broadcaster’s First Channel, claiming that they are falling under Rustavi 2 TV’s agenda-setting influence.
“Wittingly or unwittingly these television channels are actually parroting those issues, which Rustavi 2 TV is raising,” Ivanishvili said. “Unlike Rustavi 2 TV, these three television channels are perceived by the public as being objective and free. But very often they are repeating what Rustavi 2 TV is reporting without double checking and arguments and it causes confusion within the public.”
No Need to Over-Dramatize Situation with the President
Extracts from this newspaper interview were released last week in which Ivanishvili was criticizing President Giorgi Margvelashvili, among other issues, for viewing the government as his “competitor” and accusing the President’s of “obstructing” government’s activities.
In the full version of the interview Ivanishvili also says that the President has no in-person contact either with the Georgian Dream ruling coalition or the government, but despite of existing difficulties there is no need to over dramatize the situation.
“Nothing special is happening in connection with the President. Margvelashvili is performing his functions, one way or the other. We do not deal with any wrongdoings and the situation does not need over dramatization,” the former PM said.
“In-person communication is impossible because Margvelashvili himself does not want it. They exchange only correspondence,” Ivanishvili said, adding that “everyone loves President Margvelashvili”, but everyone in the GD coalition, including PM Garibashvili too, is “confused” about such situation.
“This man [Margvelashvili] was a member of the team and the [GD] team spared no effort to make him a president, but today Margvelashvili does not want to have even a contact with any of them,” the ex-PM said.
“The President has his rights and the PM has his rights and they should operate within this framework, but they should cooperate,” he said.
Ivanishvili said that Georgian government’s reaction to developments in Ukraine was “adequate”. He also said that Georgia could have been drawn into war in Ukraine had UNM maintained power in Georgia.
“God forbid the continuation of what is now going on in Ukraine. I hope very much that everything will be settled in the near future. Of course it is terrible what is happening in Ukraine. We all and personally I support our neighbor country, Ukraine. I wish peace to be established there soon and Ukraine to become a member of the European Union together with us,” Ivanishvili said.
“On the question of whether the Georgian government assessed developments in Ukrainian adequately or not – in my opinion, they did it quite adequately. I mean the Prime Minister, the President and the Parliament as well.”
“The United National Movement wants Georgia to burn in flames, because they are no longer in power,” he continued. “God saved us that they are no longer in power or else we could have seen Georgia involved in this war [in Ukraine]. I think that we have a very balanced position towards all our neighbors, including oppressed Ukraine. That man [referring to ex-president Saakashvili], who wanted to jump out of his pants, put the country in a terrible situation. He was jumping out of his pants and portraying himself as a global player. We have seen well what they did to the country. Now these kids are calling on us to go again into war. But, you will not see even a single criticism either from Europe or from the United States; on the contrary, the U.S. Defense Secretary was here and he praised our balanced relationship with Russia. Others also praise it and our position is acceptable for the international community too,” Ivanishvili said.