Former PM Bidzina Ivanishvili said in a TV interview that early parliamentary election is neither necessary nor desirable, but “we should not rule out anything.”
In an hour-long interview with Tbilisi-based Imedi TV, aired on January 28, Ivanishvili also spoke about Ukraine, relations with Russia, a planned TV program in which he will be “actively involved”, announced about plans for TV series with over 200 episodes on UNM’s nine years in government and about intention of his organization to scrutinize work of several civil society activists.
Asked if he thinks that early parliamentary elections are possible, Ivanishvili said: “Personally I would not wish it.”
He said that the Georgian society should “get used to” sticking to constitutional terms. Next parliamentary elections are scheduled for autumn, 2016.
“I do not see need for [early elections], but we should not rule out anything and there is nothing disastrous if things develop this way [towards early polls], but it would not be good as it is better to have developments within constitutional [terms] and there is a high probability that’s how it will be,” Ivanishvili said.
He said the government is “very efficient”, adding that he sees “no need for [PM Irakli] Garibashvili to be replaced.”
Speaking on Ukraine, Ivanishvili said Russia’s actions pose threat to the entire Europe and added that although Georgia should be expressing support towards Ukraine, it should keep low-profile in the process.
He slammed UNM and ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili for, as he put it, trying for their own political gains to blow Georgia’s role out of proportion in order to achieve “maximum engagement of Georgia into Ukraine, including by [calls] for going there to fight.”
“We are a small state and we should understand well our role and find our place in the most difficult situations,” Ivanishvili said. “Of course we are maximally in solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities.”
“What is happening there is a threat to the entire world and to the entire Europe and in this sense it is dangerous for us too, but not more than that,” Ivanishvili said.
“What is now happening between Ukraine and Russia is a disaster,” he continued. “What Russia is now doing is a problem not only for the region, but for the entire world. We have a small role in this process.”
“It’s very bad that Georgians died there; they were trying to help our friends [in Ukraine], but calls for going to Ukraine to fight [for Ukraine] or to fight on the Russian side are wrong,” Ivanishvili said.
Two Georgians, fighting on the Ukrainian side in the east of the country, died in combat since December. One Georgian, fighting on the side of Russian-backed separatists, was reportedly killed in early January.
Ivanishvili also said that there is no need for the Georgian government to revise its current “constructive” policy towards Russia.
He said that Russia’s treaty on “alliance and strategic partnership” with breakaway Abkhazia and planned treaty on “alliance and integration” with Georgia’s another breakaway region of South Ossetia represent “one more step towards annexation” of these regions. He, however, also said that these treaties “does not change reality” on the ground and represent result of occupation of these regions by Russia following the August, 2008 war in which, he said, ex-President Saakashvili played “a very negative role.”
Ivanishvili said that the government “did everything possible” and raised the issue of these treaties high on the international agenda, adding that there was nothing else the authorities could have done to counter these treaties.
“We should learn to be patient and wait for our time to come, but meantime we should not waste time; we should build economy, democratic institutions, establish European values and I assure you that we will have a result… Sometimes we are treated humiliatingly, but we should endure it,” he said.
“We should persistently continue moving towards Europe, towards the European values,” Ivanishvili said.
Ivanishvili denied again allegations of ruling the country from backstage, but also said that no one can ban him from giving advices, publicly or privately, to the government. He also said: “I have no lever whatsoever to rule anyone or to force someone to share my advices or to impose my advices.”
He said that opposition UNM party and its “propaganda”, “lie machine” Rustavi 2 TV were “seeding nihilism”, trying to portray the government as “feeble” and “incapable.”
He said that the UNM wants to “destabilize” the country, “but they have no ability whatsoever to do that.”
“We should get used to it that such people, like members of the United National Movement, can be part of our society; they have the right to lie, but we should not swallow this lie,” Ivanishvili said.
The ex-PM said that UNM and Rustavi 2 TV were trying to stir hype out of recent depreciation of the Georgian national currency, Lari, against U.S. dollar. Ivanishvili claimed that GEL depreciation “is no burden at all for the population” as it has not caused price hikes.
“Nothing special; on the contrary, it’s good; Lari demonstrates that it is healthy; what is happening in global economy, it is of course being reflected on Georgia too,” Ivanishvili said.
Ivanishvili said that a new TV program on GDS, a television station run by his son, Bera, will help people to “make right analysis”; he said he will be “actively involved” in the program.
Plans about the TV program were first announced last year, but its launch was delayed for number of times. Ivanishvili now said that the program will start either in late February or early March.
“Rustavi 2 TV now sets the agenda. With this small TV project I will try, without harming media landscape, to shift accents and focus not on those issues, which the lie machine wants, but what the society needs for development,” Ivanishvili said.
He said that GDS TV is also planning TV series of more than 200 episodes about “entire activities” of UNM throughout its nine years in power. The TV series, called “9+1”, will be launched from autumn, Ivanishvili said.
He also said that his organization, 2030, will prepare analysis of achievements of the GD government and will also look into work of some of the “most active” civil society activists to whom he has “questions”.
He specifically mentioned head of the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy Nino Lomjaria; head of the Transparency International Georgia Eka Gigauri, and former head of Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association Kakha Kozhoridze, who is now President Giorgi Margvelashvili’s human rights adviser.
“We will put an interesting research about them,” Ivanishvili said without elaborating details. “We have lots of questions about them.”