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Salome Zurabishvili’s Interview to Le Monde: There is no oligarch in Georgia other than Ivanishvili

On November 12, the President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili gave an interview to the French publication Le Monde. During the interview, the President spoke about the founder of the ruling “Georgian Dream” party Bidzina Ivanishvili, whom she described, for the first time, as an oligarch under Russian influences.

The President was asked wither she concurs with the view of Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili that the founder of “Georgian Dream,” Bidzina Ivanishvili played a role in the European Commission’s recommendation to grant Georgia the EU candidate status. “He [Ivanishvili] played an important role in nominating me [in 2018], as a pro-European candidate for the presidency,” – Zurabishvili said, adding, “although he did not play a positive role in accelerating our progress towards the European Union, which was spearheaded by Ukraine.”

Moreover, the President believes that Ivanishvili played a negative role “if he is the one, who inspires the ruling authorities to make bad decisions.” As an example of such a bad decision, Zurabishvili cited the attempt of the “Georgian Dream” to impeach the President, which “could not have happened without him and which,  had it succeeded, would have had an extremely negative impact on European decisions.”

When asked what is it that she is being reproached for by Ivanishvili, although she became President thanks to him, Zurabishvili said: “What he reproaches me for is probably not being at his disposal, similarly to the ruling authorities of the “Georgian Dream,” – Zurabishvili said. 

Asked to comment on the de-oligarchization, which is one of the EC recommendations to Georgia and whether she consideres Ivanishvili to be an oligarch, Zurabishvili said that she believes “the answer to de-oligarchization lies in the future elections.” Zurabishvili reiterated the importance of free elections and a real coalition government for Georgia.

Zurabishvili said: “I do not know his real weight in the country’s economic affairs. The whole thing is not at all transparent,” adding,  “what is clear is that he has a dominant influence over the current leadership. In Georgian politics today, there is no oligarch other than Ivanishvili.”

Zurabishvili was asked to say what kind of communication she has had with Ivanishvili. Zurabishvili said she had no contact of any kind for about two and a half or three years. She added: “I have never had any discussions other than about foreign policy.” She added: “When I returned from my trip to the EU, I went to share my thoughts on what we should do. It was more of a monologue than an actual dialogue. No one knows what he is thinking.”

The President was also asked to comment on whether Ivanishvili is under Russian influence. She said: “He is an oligarch who made his fortune in Russia and whose mentality is influenced by what he experienced in the past. Today, the world is split in two. He is the one of those who can not imagine that Russia will lose, and so tries to accommodate in advance to a victory of Russia, which will perhaps be even more aggressive.” Zurabishvili added: “Under his influence, the young people in the government – educated in Europe – show weakness and complacency towards Russia, which is a misunderstanding of the new geopolitical situation.”

All quotes are translated from the original in French.

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