Former PM Bidzina Ivanishvili indicated that at least half of the current lawmakers from the Georgian Dream ruling coalition may not make it on the party list of candidates for next year’s parliamentary elections.
He made the remarks in a lengthy interview with Tbilisi-based Imedi TV on Saturday in which he spoke much about President Giorgi Margvelashvili, opposition UNM party – criticizing both of them, as well as about Rustavi 2 TV and, as he put it, “excessive fuss” and “hysteria” over broadcaster’s ownership dispute.
Ivanishvili said that the GD coalition has his full backing and will be “actively supporting” the ruling coalition in its campaign ahead of the parliamentary elections, scheduled for autumn, 2016.
“I will be active no less than I was [ahead of] 2012 [elections],” he said. “I will support the Georgian Dream with all of my resources as much as I can.”
Ivanishvili said that he spoke about it with GD lawmakers, when he met them on October 19 in the ruling coalition’s headquarters in Tbilisi.
The ex-PM said that at the same meeting he also told ruling coalition MPs that the GD’s parliamentary group “of course has to be reshuffled.”
He said currently among GD parliamentary group there are many “sportsmen, scientists, public figures or persons from art” circles, whom he respects very much, but “we should manage to endorse in the Parliament those people, who can be involved in the process of lawmaking.”
“Of course in this regard our team [in the parliament] is not an exemplary one… Many of them are not for parliamentary work,” he said and also complained that many of them don’t even speak English.
“The new team should be composed with many young people,” he said.
“From my point of view, in the best case, half of [current GD MPs] will retain [position in party list],” Ivanishvili said, but added “it’s too early now” to speak who might be on top of GD party list for next year’s parliamentary elections.
Ivanishvili denied speculation that he wants one of the leaders of the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia, Irma Inashvili, to win MP by-election in Sagarejo single-mandate constituency, instead of GD’s candidate Tamar Khidasheli who is from the Republican Party, a member of the ruling coalition.
“It has nothing to do with truth,” Ivanishvili said. “I call on voters in Sagarejo to support Tamar Khidasheli” in MP by-election on October 31.
“To say the truth I don’t even know the Alliance of Patriot well, I have not read their platform and it is ruled out for me to support their candidate,” Ivanishvili added.
The August poll, commission by the U.S. National Democratic Institute (NDI) and fielded by CRRC, showed increase in number of undecided voters amid sharp drop in support for the GD coalition, putting the latter neck-and-neck with the opposition UNM party with 14% and 15% of support, respectively, among likely voters.
Ivanishvili said that although he respects NDI and appreciates highly organization’s work in Georgia, he does not trust polls fielded by CRRC, claiming that its leadership is affiliated with the UNM opposition party.
“I called the recent poll UNM’s dream, which has nothing to do with reality,” Ivanishvili said.
Asked what he’s going to do if in 2016 parliamentary elections show that he and GD no longer have support, Ivanishvili responded: “I don’t think it will be the case in 2016… but if not in 2016 it will happen at some point and when it happens I will relinquish this role with pleasure and do gardening, which is my hobby and which I love so much.”
Rustavi 2 TV – ‘Why do They Make Such Fuss Out of It?’
Echoing official line of the government and GD politicians, he said that ongoing litigation over Rustavi 2 TV ownership is a dispute between private individuals and the authorities have nothing to do with it.
Kibar Khalvashi, who co-owned Rustavi 2 TV in 2004-2006, wants to reclaim his shares in the television station through a lawsuit he filed in August. Rustavi 2 TV leadership say that Khalvashi is acting upon Ivanishvili’s instructions and his lawsuit in fact is an attempt by Ivanishvili to take over the most watched and opposition-minded broadcaster.
Ivanishvili said that UNM opposition party and Rustavi 2 TV are trying to create “hysteria” and “fuss” out of this dispute in an attempt to use it for political purposes.
“[The United] National Movement is behind it – Rustavi 2 is not an independent TV station; it is UNM’s propaganda and lie machine, but they have the right to be such,” he said.
He said that “in principle” it does not matter who owns which television station; important is not to have any broadcaster controlled by the government.
“Why do they make such hysteria and fuss out of it? What difference does it make for us, for the society, who [will own Rustavi 2 TV]? UNM has enough finances to buy one or two other television channels,” Ivanishvili said.
“Not a single media outlet is dangerous for me… Tragedy would be emergence of a government-controlled media outlet,” said Ivanishvili, whose family owns Tbilisi-based GDS television station.
Asked if he wants the ongoing court proceeding over Rustavi 2 TV’s ownership to end with victory of Khalvashi, whose sister is a lawmaker from GD coalition, Ivanishvili responded: “I am in favor of justice.”
He also said that the UNM tries “to sell” dispute over Rustavi 2 TV among Georgia’s western partners as being a threat to media freedom.
President’s Statement ‘Completely Irresponsible’
Ivanishvili said that President Giorgi Margvelashvili’s statement on October 22 about the recent developments, including over Rustavi 2 TV, was “completely irresponsible.”
Margvelashvili spoke in his statement about “escalated political climate”, saying that he sees “prerequisites of civil confrontation and violation of constitutional order.” He also called on the judge adjudicating dispute over Rustavi 2 TV ownership “not to make hasty decisions.”
“He violated the law,” Ivanishvili said of Margvelashvili. “He had no right to indicate to the judge” about what kind of decision he should or should not take.
“He [the President] also had no right… to speak about civil confrontation – that was his biggest mistake; there is no prerequisite whatsoever for civil confrontation,” Ivanishvili said.
“Those very people, who make such statements, want to justify [United] National Movement’s [actions]… Those who make such statements, support UNM,” he said.
In the same statement on October 22 President Margvelashvili criticized PM Irakli Garibashvili for his remarks in which he said that “aggression” against UNM opposition party is “natural.”
Ivanishvili said that he “disliked” Garibashvili’s remarks, describing them as “excessively emotional”.
“As head of the government he has to be more responsible,” he said, adding that he had advised for multiple times to Garibashvili “not to be emotional and to be pragmatic.”
In general, he praised Garibashvili for being “a very good Prime Minister.”
“He is trying hard and progressing on a daily basis; I think he’s becoming a good politician… I think he is a very good Prime Minister and I think he will be even more efficient in the future,” Ivanishvili said.
During the interview Ivanishvili reiterated again his criticism of President Margvelashvili for his refusal to give up using a presidential palace built during the presidency of Mikheil Saakashvili.
Ivanishvili said that it was his “mistake” to select Margvelashvili as GD’s presidential candidate.
Suggesting that Margvelashvili has changed since being elected as the President in 2013, Ivanishvili said that the President “is in a conflict not personally with me, but with previous Margvelashvili, a person he was before becoming the president.”
‘UNM Does Me a Service’
Dismissing allegations of being an “informal ruler” of the country, Ivanishvili said that he only gives “friendly advices” to the government.
“The only lever I have is my word,” he said, adding that GD and government officials may or may not even heed his advices.
Ivanishvili said that his influence stems from high public confidence, which he still enjoys.
“UNM does me the greatest service” in keeping public support, Ivanishvili said.
“This force [UNM] still exists and it is still raging… Of course it does not make the public to forget me,” he said.
He also said the fact that he is the target of UNM’s criticism on everything and whenever possible helps him “keep my popularity”.
“They are doing disservice for themselves… Their swearing is blessing for me,” Ivanishvili said. “They are so stupid that they can’t even understand it.”
When told by an interviewer that he himself is also speaking often about UNM, Ivanishvili responded: “They do not deserve to be mentioned so often. It adds certain popularity to them.”
“I sincerely wish them to become part of our society, I’ve never been their enemy and I have never wanted to destroy them as they try to portray it,” he said.