Former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili said he’s “surprised” by and “disappointed” in President Giorgi Margvelashvili.
Ivanishvili, who was previously often describing Margvelashvili as one of his closest friends, said that he no longer keeps “informal relations” with the President.
“I don’t see any tragedy in that. It’s even better for me; it gave me more free time,” he said in an interview with Tbilisi-based Imedi TV, which was aired late on March 18.
He also said there “is no need to dramatize” differences they had.
In the interview Ivanishvili also spoke about how he was involved in trying to dissuade President Margvelashvili from vetoing a bill in late December, more than a month after he formally quit PM’s post.
Asked how he would evaluate Giorgi Margvelashvili in his capacity of the President, Ivanishvili responded: “In general, I think, everything here is within norms. But I will not hide that I was expecting it to be better.”
“During the first two months I had lots of polemics with the elected president,” said Ivanishvili, who quit PM’s post on the day when Margvelashvili was sworn in as president on November 17, 2013, three weeks after his election victory.
Ivanishvili complained about Vano Matchavariani being, as he put it, Presidents’ “favorite”.
Matchavariani, who is brother of UNM lawmaker Mikheil Matchavariani, is Margvelashvili’s foreign policy adviser.
The main problem about president’s foreign policy adviser, he said, is Matchavariani’s “improper” actions in the past.
Ivanishvili said that after he entered into politics in late 2011, Margvelashvili brought into the team his friend Vano Matchavariani, but the latter quit shortly after that and took a well-paid job at the state-owned Partnership Fund. Ivanishvili said that Vano Matchavariani joined his team just to “anger” then ruling UNM party and to obtain from them a well-paid job in exchange for not being with Georgian Dream.
Vano Matchavariani denied Ivanishvili’s allegation as being “not even close to truth.”
“It is very regrettable that Bidzina Ivanishvili was provided with distorted information,” Matchavariani told InterPressNews agency.
Although Ivanishvili said the fact that UNM senior figure’s brother is working for the president “is not a tragedy”, he also said that it was still “unpleasant” for him; he said he had “an argument for number of times” with Margvelashvili over this issue. “I do not want to dramatize it, but it remains unpleasant,” he said.
Another issue on which Ivanishvili criticized Margvelashvili is the latter’s decision to start using, at least partially, a glass-dome presidential palace in Avlabari in Tbilisi. Although saying initially that he would not have used the palace, last week Margvelashvili held several meetings there including a ceremony of presenting credentials by seven new non-resident ambassadors. Margvelashvili said that the glass-domed presidential palace was used for this event as there is no enough space in government chancellery for such ceremonies.
Ivanishvili said that before being elected as president, Margvelashvili himself was strongly against of using this palace, built by ex-president Saakashvili’s administration.
“This [palace] is a symbol of ‘violence, evil and indecency’ – these are Giorgi’s words,” Ivanishvili said.
He said that by bringing this example he’s not at all implying that Margvelashvili had no right to use the palace; he said he wants to show how Margvelashvili changed his views on this particular issue after becoming the president.
“[Margvelashvili] showed principally different features and character after the [presidential] election,” he added.
Ivanishvili confirmed that he also had a dispute with the President in late December over Margvelashvili’s intention to veto a bill, which was strongly criticized by UNM opposition and many civil society organizations. The amendment to the criminal procedure code postponed once again introduction of a new rule that will replace current practice of compelled witness statements with questioning of witnesses only before court.
The Parliament passed the amendment on December 26, 2013 – more than a month after Ivanishvili quit PM’s post. Ivanishvili said that that after learning about Margvelashvili’s intention to veto the bill he met the President in an attempt to convince him not to do that.
“I explained to him that [veto] would have triggered misunderstanding within the team, because it was approved by the [GD coalition] team in the Parliament and the United National Movement was against of this bill and vetoing this bill would have been an insult of his own team, which was helping him throughout this process [in election campaign]; to put it mildly he responded that he did not care. Then I told him that people will not understand [presidential veto] as well; again to put it mildly he responded that he did not care about it either,” Ivanishvili said.
He said that he failed to convince Margvelashvili against vetoing the bill and parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili even started to mobilize GD lawmakers for a parliamentary session to override possible veto, requiring votes of at least 76 MPs.
The bill was not vetoed by Margvelashvili, who signed it into law. Ivanishvili said that he had not “interfered” in this issue any more after his conversation with Margvelashvili and is not aware what made the President to change his mind and not to veto the bill.
Margvelashvili spoke on the issue in late January and said that there were differences between him and some other Georgian Dream ruling coalition members over this bill and was even considering “active interference”.
Ivanishvili also said in the interview with Imedi TV that there were “many misunderstandings” but would not like to speak about them.
“But I want to repeat that there is no need to dramatize it; today this man [the President] functions and is doing what he has to do under the constitution and I think he will improve in the future and do everything better,” he said.
“There were many surprises for me about [Margvelashvili], but it did not harm the public and nothing special has happened,” he said. “I have a certain disappointment, but nothing principle.”
In the same interview Ivanishvili praised PM Irakli Garibashvili and said that Garibashvili “is better prime minister than he was.”
Ivanishvili said that he has not changed his mind about Davit Narmania, minister of infrastructure and regional development, whom he selected as GD’s Tbilisi mayoral candidate in the June 15 local elections. Ivanishvili said there “is a high probability” that Narmania will win the race without requiring a second round runoff. He said the reason why he thinks so is that Narmania is a good candidate and on the other hand he will have no strong competitors in the race – neither from the UNM nor from the non-parliamentary opposition parties.