Billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, not holding any public office in Georgia, continues to play a huge role in the social life of the country. He said that he was disappointed by President Giorgi Margvelashvili and stopped to communicate with him. Margvelashvili confirmed this crisis in relations, noting that it was necessary to take a break, and try to understand what was happening. The United National Movement (UNM) – the former ruling party, taking the side of the president, tried to take advantage of the situation.
It is not quite clear what happened between the omnipotent Bidzina Ivanishvili and his recent favorite. Quite recently, the richest Georgian, having peacefully overturned the political situation in Georgia, rather quickly, paid compliments to Giorgi Margvelashvili, calling him, perhaps the first person in the country according to moral and ethical qualities, education, etc. He actually gave him the presidency, though under the new Constitution, and with reduced powers. This is an axiom: if Ivanishvili had not wanted it, then Margvelashvili would never have become president of Georgia. The population of Georgia fulfilled Bidzina Ivanishvili’s desire by voting for today’s president in the elections. Now, suddenly, a break has occurred.
“Margvelashvili changed very much. This is not the person I have known before the presidential election. I am disappointed. We often argued with him, disagreed with each other, but now the best thing I can do is stop communicating,” Ivanishvili made this sensational statement in an interview with one of the Georgian TV channels. Now he intends just to watch the president’s actions, without excluding, however, possible contacts at the official level. Moreover, such relations will occur, as Ivanishvili has created a large NGO with political orientation and the Development Fund of Georgia – the largest financial institutions to help entrepreneurs.
It is not quite clear yet, what exactly happened between Ivanishvili and Margvelashvili. In Tbilisi, they say that they had an argument because of the hot Margvelashvili’s intention to move to the Presidential Palace, which was built for his predecessor, Mikheil Saakashvili, and that has been empty since November of last year, after Saakashvili’s departure. Back then, the winner of the presidential election – Margvelashvili, announced that he would not move to the pompous mansion, called “Caligula’s Palace” because the former president of Georgia had such inclinations.
At that time, Margvelashvili’s decision caused mixed reactions in Georgia. Finally, Saakashvili did not build the Palace for himself, as all over the world it is understood that the president has a permanent working place: in Russia – the Kremlin, in the United States – the White House, in France – Elysee Palace, etc. Experts pointed out that the Presidential Palace was originally designed as a large office and an educational institution or museum – but namely because no institution or museum would be able to function normally there, the experts proposed to Ivanishvili and Margvelashvili to correct this mistake. As a result, the Presidential Palace remained empty for several months, and when a building is not functioning, then as a rule, it inevitably falls into decay. Can Georgia, not being the richest country in the world, afford such a luxury, wasting an expensive modern beautiful building only because it was built on the orders of the former president? The answer seems to be rather obvious. Therefore, Margvelashvili’s move to the Presidential Palace is not something outrageous, but rather, on the contrary, a rational decision.
However, in Tbilisi rumors are spreading that Ivanishvili became angry mostly due to Margvelashvili’s statement that the president ought not to be located lower than Ivanishvili. The fact is that the Presidential Palace is located on a hill about the same height as Ivanishvili’s mansion, built on one of the mountains in Tbilisi. However, these are unsubstantiated rumors, which may have nothing to do with the relationship of the two figures.
Another thing is that Ivanishvili expressed dissatisfaction with public personnel policy of the president, who appointed as his Political Adviser, one of the leaders of the United National Movement, former vice-speaker Mikhail Machavariani. “The problem is not related to kinship, but to this person’s ‘nationals’ ideology, which occurred a long time ago,” said Ivanishvili, without hiding is perturbation. Observers believe that this billionaire’s critical speech had an influence on the current falling out.
In resigning from the post of prime minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili did not hide his intentions to influence social and political life of the country through the created NGO. However, there immediately was heard the following warning: Ivanishvili may not achieve success, as Deng Xiaoping did in China, because of his politicians’ mentality. Thus, perhaps the reason for the break in relations with Margvelashvili is that the president did not want to remain a slave. However, Ivanishvili should not be alarmed about this situation yet. As the local experts say, Prime Minister Irakli Garibishvili remains under his influence and he, under the Constitution, is the major figure in the state hierarchy.
The relationship break between Ivanishvili and Margvelashvili has noticeably revived the political field in Georgia. There appeared statements that the President should immediately resign from his post, because he only came there thanks to Ivanishvili. An opposite position was taken by representatives of the former government. The “Nationals” harshly criticized Ivanishvili, considering unacceptable such public criticism of the president, who had been elected by more than 60% of the population (although quite recently they did not hesitate to call Margvelashvili – the billionaire’s puppet).
This “forgetfulness” and the radical change in attitude towards the president are easily explained. First, members of the United National Movement can once again criticize Ivanishvili, the man, who has deprived them of their power and privileges. Second, it would be a mistake on their part not to try to take advantage of the split in the “Georgian Dream”. Third, there are the upcoming elections to local government bodies, and according to the forecasts, the “Nationals” will lose their last government offices. Thus, their logical move is to get an ally in the person of President. Even though today he is not such a strong figure, as was the case in the recent past, but he is still influential, having the possibility to influence the situation.
Yuri Simonyan, a columnist of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.