The same day as his comeback to the ruling party’s leadership as the Political Secretary was announced on 5 March, Irakli Garibashvili, Georgia’s erstwhile prime-minister staked out his vision of the reasons behind the return, and of the priorities ahead in the evening talk-show “Reakcia” (Reaction). We have summarized some of the key points for our readers.
Bringing the party together
Garibashvili said: “today our main objective is to unify and strengthen the party, my main mission would be – certainly together with the party chairman [Ivanishvili] and other leaders – to bring our party’s founders, deputies of the previous parliament – the first generation, so to say – and those of the new generation closer together, to achieve better coordination and to – in the end – unite. This is my main mission, my main task.
Garibashvili added he wanted the party to be stronger even than it used to be in 2012, when it wrestled power away from Mikheil Saakashvili and the United National Movement.
This is a very ambitious plan, which our party leader has, and we all share this plan… The reason of our return is for the party to be stronger than it was, and to fulfill all promises we gave to our population.
Responding to the journalists question, on whether it was a bit too late to start fulfilling promises during the seventh year of governance, Garibashvili said “It is not too late. It is never late to do it.”
…together with the leader
Garibashvili repeatedly stressed the importance and the crucial role of the party founder and leader, Bidzina Ivanishvili. He stressed that the victory of the Georgian Dream was “absolutely impossible and unimaginable” without Ivanishvili “the unifying leader for all these processes” that helped defeat “Saakashvili regime”. He pledged to “spend himself fully” for the team and follow whatever is expected of him.
He said people always need a leader, “who would unite and consolidate the political processes. Bidzina Ivanishvili was, is, and will be this leader”, he argued.
Nobody shall forget that this mandate, the mandate of governance, belongs and has belonged to Mr. Bidzina [Ivanishvili], which was then transferred to me, after his departure [as the Prime Minister] and those two years while I served, I think I have carried out this mandate honorably. When it was decided, that I had to exit politics, I also honorably transferred this mandate to my successor.
Beselia: pity, but not a tragedy
Garibashvili’s returns as his party is bleeding MPs. In an important rift, several founding members, led by the former head of the judicial committee Eka Beselia have quit the Georgian Dream, which cost the ruling party a highly symbolic constitutional majority in the parliament.
Party’s incoming political secretary tried to put a brave face on the affair, saying the “values that united them” with the defectors remain intact. He did, however sound bitter, occasionally with undertones of menace.
“I want to address all, also our former teammates – it is emotionally very difficult to look at the processes that have developed, and I hope all would settle down in the end,” he said.
[…] I get this feeling, because when one makes demands, wants everything to be ideal – it can’t be, because no party or government can be ideal.
It is difficult for me to explain Eka [Beselia’s] actions, I had the feeling that she is not making a free choice, there is a problem there. I don’t know from who, or from what, I am just being honest.
If you have questions, whatever concerns the party shall stay within the party, you can’t bring out the matters discussed within the party to the public view, and to put thus blow the wind into the party’s and your personal enemies’ sails.
Garibashvili said the departure of Beselia and her colleagues was painful, but not tragic for the party, since the leadership had “other plans” which would soon become apparent to the public.
Defiant on appointment of judges
Garibashvili was defiant concerning the painful issue of lifetime appointment of judges, that has deepened the fissures between the “old” and “new” generations of the Georgian Dream and served as a pretext of Beselia’s departure.
Questioned on this issue, Garibashvili said that in case any judge is implicated in “heavy cases” and “there are legitimate questions” from public, “all questions should be exhaustively answered”. However, he swept aside the party’s responsibility for some specific appointments.
I am not here to advocate for anyone, but I can say this – all those people, civil servants, that are holding the correct position aligned with state’s interests and are serving our country – we should take care of these people.
No judge is the property of the Georgian Dream, neither of Bidzina Ivanishvili, in reality, today the process is ongoing that would lead to final independence of the courts.
He put squarely the blame for “orchestrating” the issue of judges and the independence of courts on the United National Movement and its allies, and expressed regrets that many people have engaged in this process “willingly or unwillingly”.
This is [the discussion] orchestrated by our major destructive opposition party, by their satellite non-governmental organizations and can see the involvement of certain individuals in this process.
Scathing tone on opposition
Garibashvili showed he has retained the characteristic scathing criticism of the United National Movement, and its leaders, saying they were incorrigible, despite the “super-humanistic” initial messages of then Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili to end divisions.
I never believed that it was possible to correct people like Saakashvili or other representatives of his bloody regime. I always was, am and will hold the point of view, that correcting these people, making them respectable and putting them into service of the state is practically impossible, [because they have] been abusing people for years, have brought many a trouble and have left us with many problems.
He particularly stressed that no government which “lost territories, hundreds of villages, citizens who died” would have had the right to remain in politics and should, perhaps, have been prosecuted.
When you have a pretense of being a clever governor, managing and caring for your people, you take responsibility, and you should feel an obligation to defend your citizens and your state, and not to lose territories, you shall try to avoid the great visitation of occupied territories, you shall not, so to say, lead the Russian troops into the country.
Garibashvili also swept aside the suggestion that European Georgia – which holds the largest opposition faction in the parliament is a valid opposition force.
There is no normal, constructive opposition in the country, do you know any? With good ratings, with credibility… EuroNatsis? [derogatory term for the European Georgia, implying their connection with the National Movement (referred to as Natsis)]? They are the ordinary satellites of Saakashvili, they can’t even realize themselves whether they are traitors [of Saakashvili] or playing some game. In the end, they play the same game, of course. Who is there? Dato Bakratze and Giga Bokeria? [People] Who were the faces of whole of this ugliness and of this criminal regime?
TBC Bank – nobody is untouchable
Garibashvili said “freedom” was the greatest achievement of the Georgian Dream government, including the freedom of doing business, saying there were “one or two cases in a million” where there could be some problems and that “business was untouchable”. Questioned about the case of TBC Bank and Mamuka Khazaradze’s claims he declined to comment.
Mamuka Khazaradze’s specific case is a criminal offense, as the Prosecutor’s office says, and it is for them to investigate, not for me. […] I hope that the investigation will provide the public with exhaustive information on this specific criminal offense.
He also said, he does not believe in Khazaradze’s claims of being threatened by the Interior Minister saying “this needs to be proven by facts”. “I remember Bidzina Ivanishvili’s tasking to all of us – help all businesses, do not make problems, do not dare touch them…I went personally with Mr. Khazaradze to London when TBC shares were sold [at the London Stock Exchange].”
Still, when pressed on the matter, Gharibashvili warned
We should not forget, that nobody is untouchable, even influential businesspeople, or people with means, etc. Do you think someone would forgive you carrying out the 17 million USD operation like this? [prosecution case against TBC revolves around a transaction of this amount]. Nobody would have forgiven it neither to you, or me, or anyone.
Garibashvili also cast doubts about Anaklia Deep Sea Port project, as well as Khazaradze’s ability to manage it, saying the consortium led by TBC Holding shows no results.
When it comes to Anaklia Port, the first question I have is – three years have passed, as I remember they [TBC Holding] won the tender in 2016. Why is the timeline not respected, why is the port not being built? Was there some problem with getting the financing? Or maybe simply it was not an interesting enough project. I do not know, experts shall look into that. […] Three years have passed, is the Port built? I am asking, is it built? No.
He swept aside journalists question that there are some suggestions that Bidzina Ivanishvili might be interested in taking the Anaklia project over.
Let’s say, for argument’s sake that Ivanishvili was interested in this port, who would have prevented him from being engaged? Nobody, knowing his financial resources and other things, what would have been the problem? What would have been a better guarantee for the international investors, than Ivanishvili’s involvement? But since this process [of tender] was absolutely free, transparent, nobody has interfered into it.