The year 2011 proved itself strange. Saakashvili’s government had long been creating many difficulties for its citizens – economic, legal, political. Unhappy people hoped for the opposition. The opposition split into two parts; one focusing on protest rallies, the other on improving the election environment. Neither was able to undermine or even shake Saakashvili’s government. People developed a critical attitude toward the opposition and the hope that the government could change, vanished.
The Georgian population was not the only one expecting for Georgian government changing. Our partners in Europe and the US seemed to have the same expectations – indications had been made all the time for renewing the government through fair elections. This is understandable; because Saakashvili’s confrontational rhetoric towards Russia had been raising more or less difficulties on the way to the ‘resetting’. The government seemed not to notice request from the West – to set up conditions for reconciliation with Russia (Which the French president openly expressed during his visit in Tbilisi, our capital city). Shortly, stubborn nature of the government had been creating difficulties inside and outside of the country.
The weakness of the opposition raised belief in government for gaining desired results in the next elections. However, as the Georgian proverb says – ‘God laughs when a man contemplates.’ Bidzina Ivanishvili appeared as ‘God’s mockery’ for the government.
Bidzina Ivanishvvili was involved in the business activities in Russia for years. Today his assets surpasses Georgia’s annual budget. 15 years ago, he began charity on an unprecedented scale in Georgia. Every Georgian knows that he had built the Tbilisi Trinity Cathedral [the third-tallest Eastern Orthodox church in the World]; saved theatres and University from demolishing; many Georgian scientists or artists make living on pensions assigned by Ivanishvili. He has been in the shadow so far, avoiding media and politics.
But now, during the winemaking period, a ‘sacred’ ritual for many Georgians for millennia, the billionaire suddenly claimed that he will take part in the elections and desires to change the government. The statement sounded like a thunder-storm. Hope rose in everyone that a real patriot may come in the government, who does not need to steal from the budget. Hope rose in the population — and panic in the government. The government had found the motive to revoke Ivanishvili’s citizenship. So the businessman decided to hold a meeting with diplomats on this issue and the whole diplomatic corps visited him at home. The US ambassador stated that they will follow closely the events taking place around Ivanishvili. Such a reaction of the West also was equal to the thunder-storm.
A very hard fight is beginning. If the ruling National Movement Party won’t come into parliament with a substantial majority, Saakashvili cannot be chosen as Prime Minister and the entire authoritarian vertical will be critically shaken. At the same time, if another person comes as a head of the government (Ivanishvili, for example), it is possible that many of the incumbent government representatives may lose their place and it can be time for their liability then. It can also be possible to restore independence of the Court, media and business, which will solve numerous problems of the citizens. The population welcomes this fact. If Saakashvili won’t be Prime Minister, negotiations and normalization processes with Russia will begin. Our partners will welcome it.
Ivanishvili’s sudden appearance raised belief in the citizens and foreign friends that Georgia’s future problems may be solved. But if Saakashvili stays in government as a result of the next elections, neither internal nor foreign difficulties can be solved for the next several decades. Saakashvili’s supporters and opponents, friends and enemies of our country may lose much after this elections. It is more likely that all these forces will be involved in this fighting. The fight makes sense – belief in this raised alternative like Bidzina Ivanishvili.
Georgian political winemaking proved to be very hard for everyone. Let’s see, what wine will be squeezed out.
Ramaz Sakvarelidze is a well-known Georgian psychologist and political analyst, former spokesman for ex-President Eduard Shevardnadze and former advisor to President Mikheil Saakashvili