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Georgian Politicians React to Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Interview

Former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s first televised interview since his return as the chair of the GDDG party, was received with mixed assessments in the political scene, with ruling party lawmakers and officials endorsing the messages voiced by their leader and with opposition politicians criticizing the former Prime Minister for his remarks.

MP Tamar Khulordava, who chairs the parliament’s committee on European Integration, said Ivanishvili’s interview demonstrated that he “is sincere and has a right vision.” “He put right emphases on being accountable to the public, on transparency, on parliamentary oversight and on the parliamentary model in general,” Khulordava said, adding that his positions on Georgia’s European integration “are correct and realistic.”

MP Sopio Kiladze, who chairs the parliament’s human rights committee, stressed Ivanishvili’s messages were “well-argued and right.”

MP Davit Matikashvili, deputy chair of the parliament’s legal affairs committee, hailed the interview as well, saying Ivanishvili responded to all questions, including of those who “are trying to deceive our society through spreading lies even in respect of [Ivanishvili’s] most noble and selfless goals.”

MP Vano Zardiashvili echoed Matikashvili’s sentiments, saying the party leader was “sincere,” and that his only “desire and dream” was to strengthen the country. “We listened to the interview of a man who admires Georgia, of someone who has been demonstrating to the team and his opponents that the homeland and its interests are supreme.”

Opposition criticism

Opposition politicians have strongly criticized Bidzina Ivanishvili’s interview, with ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, who serves as the honorary chairman of the United National Movement, saying Ivanishvili “has acknowledged that the poverty levels have increased under his rule and that the country’s economy is practically not growing.”

“Under my tenure, the economy grew four times, …. but under Ivanishvili’s six years … it shrank; poverty under my tenure was reduced two times, and it increased under Ivanishvili, and in these circumstances any other leader would have left,” he also noted.

Saakashvili touched upon Ivanishvili’s bank remarks as well, stressing that the Ivanishvili-owned Cartu bank, “the fastest-growing pawning institution in the country,” grew “four times at the expense of government programs.” He also accused the authorities of giving preferences to companies owned by Bidzina Ivanishvili.

MP Roman Gotsiridze of the United National Movement, said Ivanishvili’s decision to lay the responsibility with Kumsishvili and Kvirikashvili was his attempt “to find a scapegoat in the eyes of the public,” adding that his remarks about banks “are very dangerous, very harmful and can completely destroy the country’s economy.”

MP Irakli Abesadze of the European Georgia party slammed Ivanishvili’s remarks on the poverty level as “extremely cynical.” “Blaming Kvirikashvili, Kumsishvili and other ministers is obviously Ivanishvili’s attempt to avoid his responsibility; we saw very well from the interview that he is the real leader of the team and the one carrying out the [economic] reforms that have resulted into higher poverty levels,” Abesadze noted.

MP Davit Bakradze of the European Georgia party said Bidzina Ivanishvili “understands very well that the Georgian Dream’s political resources have been exhausted and this is exactly why the ruling party decided to support an independent candidate.”

Nino Burjanadze of the Democratic Movement-United Georgia, slammed the GDDG leader for running the country “as a private company.” “We have also learned from him that Bidzina Ivanishvili’s governance is a public control and not informal governance,” she also noted, adding that Ivanishvili’s statement that the ruling party could yield the presidency to the opposition, “means that they will make a deal with one of their satellite parties and label it as a victory of democracy.”

Shalva Natelashvili of the Labor Party criticized Ivanishvili “as a [politically] bankrupt oligarch, who was trying to convince us yesterday that it was only recently that he learned about mass unemployment and poverty.”

He also said Ivanishvili’s remarks on the presidential polls aim at “diffusing the negative public mood [towards the authorities] either through refusing to name a presidential candidate from his political party, or through supporting a candidate who he considers to be neutral or through implicitly supporting one of his satellites.”

Davit Usupashvili of the Development Movement said Ivanishvili spoke in the interview “as a man tormented by [GDDG] failures,” someone “full of responsibility, who is trying to find solutions … and who has a feeling that the country rests on his shoulders.”

Usupashvili then noted that the country should not depend on one person only, and stressed the need for institutional changes, instead of trying to find “better” persons for leading positions. “The political system will not improve without electoral reforms, without curbing the influence of security services, money and administrative resources in politics … and without Ivanishvili acknowledging that the burden for running the country belongs not only to him, but to everyone.”

PM Bakhtadze’s response

Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze responded to the criticism on July 26, accusing the opposition of “attacking Bidzina Ivanishvili personally.”

“Bidzina Ivanishvili was very straightforward on the challenges that our economy is facing today, as well as on the important progress that the country has achieved during the rule of the Georgian Dream party … but the criticism against his points lacked argumentation,” he said, adding that attempts to “discredit Ivanishvili in the eyes of the public will go in vein.”

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