Bidzina Ivanishvili speaks at an inaugural assembly of his public movement, Georgian Dream, in the Tbilisi State Concert Hall, December 11. Photo: Guram Muradov/Civil.ge
Billionaire-turned-politician, Bidzina Ivanishvili, held on Sunday an inaugural assembly of his public movement, Georgian Dream, saying that the new group will aim at “increasing public control over political processes” in the country.
The movement is likely to serve as a platform for the billionaire philanthropist’s political activities and setting up of such groups, referred as “public movement” is a practice which other Georgian politicians resorted to in the past before launching a political party. After losing his Georgian citizenship, Ivanishvili himself has no right to establish a party or to fund it. Ivanishvili, who holds the French passport, has a lawsuit in the court trying to regain his Georgian citizenship.
Addressing supporters at the assembly, Ivanishvili said that the newly established movement would create its branches in the regions with the key task of “consolidation of political and civil society groups for the purpose of creating fair electoral environment so that to ensure coming into power through democratic elections of those political forces, which will be supported by the people.”
The assembly was held in the Tbilisi State Concert Hall. The main hall of the venue with capacity of 2,000 seats was filled with invited guests, among them artists, writers, filmmakers – cultural workers, including those who have been receiving assistance from Ivanishvili’s charitable foundation in a form of a monthly salary for years. Several former officials from ex-president Eduard Shevardnadze’s administration, no longer involved in politics, were also seen among the invited guests. Those without invitation, willing to attend, filled a separate hall watching the event on a screen and others were gathered outside the State Concert Hall.
Leaders of Our Georgia-Free Democrats and Republican Party, Irakli Alasania and Davit Usupashvili, respectively – the two opposition groups which Ivanishvili picked as his political partners – were also attending the movement’s inaugural session.
In his 18-minute long speech at the assembly, Ivanishvili slammed the authorities’ policies and said that his movement would invite “experienced specialists” to create issue-based working groups to develop concepts for justice and law, human rights, economy, agriculture, foreign policy, national minorities, regional policy, conflict issues, local self-governance, culture and sports.
Ivanishvili said that “despite of a success at the initial stage, the Rose Revolution failed to meet the society’s expectations.”
“The large part of media outlets is oriented towards misinforming the public… So called nomenclature capitalism has been established in the country, involving complete loyalty and in most of the cases full integration of the business with the authorities, which in itself rules out creation of free market economy,” he said, adding that he was sure journalists and businesspeople “obeying these vicious rules of the game” were themselves dissatisfied with this situation “and I am sure they will too stand beside us soon.”
“The August, 2008 war dealt a heavy blow for Georgia,” he said. “Large part of Georgia’s territories is occupied and thousands of displaced persons are living in poor conditions.”
“Analysis of materials by international organizations shows that it was possible to avoid the escalation of the conflict; moreover, it was possible to successfully develop peace process if not heavy mistakes made by the authorities. The authorities have no political resources to resolve the conflicts and have no systematic strategy or at least a vision which the international community would have been ready to support,” he said.
“One of the directions of the authorities’ ‘strategy’ remains an ingrained principle of ‘preventing Russian threat’ – under this pretext the authorities justify arrests of politically active persons, as well as [justify] spy and terrorism hysteria and limiting citizens’ rights. They have justified with this very same pretext of ‘permanent struggle’ against the Russian aggression, extraordinary cruelty with which the May 26, 2011 protest rally was dispersed,” Ivanishvili said.
He said that “attempt to discredit the Georgian Orthodox Church and incite internal confrontation” within the Church “is one of the integral parts of the government’s policy.”
“If not the Patriarch’s wisdom, confrontation between confessions and different nationalities would have been irreversible,” Ivanishvili said without elaborating.
He also criticized the authorities for, as he put it, “pseudo-reforms”, saying that the country’s leadership wrongly believed “that the Georgian culture is not compatible with principles of liberal democracy and rule of law.” “They think that the people are dim to support changes, which benefit them,” he said.
“People are in fact ready to accept and support reforms, which really resonate with their interests,” Ivanishvili said and brought as an example two reforms, which the authorities carried out shortly after the Rose Revolution – introducing new system of entry exams in the universities, which eradicating corruption in that system and the police reform.
“Reform of the law enforcement system was a success too,” he said. “As a result we have received non-corrupt police, capable of efficiently fighting the crime.”
He, however, also said that the reform was marred by “blatant politicization” of the law enforcement structures, when these agencies “are used by the authorities as a mean for repressing and terrorizing the society.”
Ivanishvili said that “because of mistakes” Georgia’s leadership had became “unacceptable both internally and internationally.” “The authorities have fully exhausted their internal and external capital and turned into a major obstacle on the path of development of our state and the society,” he said.
He said that his movement’s goal was to build the state where “honesty, dignity and professionalism” would serve as a prerequisite for success. In other goals he listed: creating such system that would prevent concentration of power into a single political force; employment; “winning confidence of our Abkhaz and Ossetian compatriots and unification of the country”; integration into the Euro-Atlantic space “and not imitation of moving towards the Europe”. “Our goal is to achieve a victory for Georgia and not defeating anyone,” Ivanishvili said.
The event, which lasted for 80 minutes, was opened by Ivanishvili’s rapper son, Bera, who performed his song, Georgian Dream, followed by speeches from several speakers, among them, a poet Rati Amaglobeli; writers Naira Gelashvili and Guram Odisharia; human rights lawyer Manana Kobakhidze.
One of the speakers was Georgian soccer player Kakhi Kaladze, who said he decided to speak out because “this country is not only for politicians” and slammed the authorities for “usurping” the power. During his speech Kaladze, 33, who now plays for Italy’s Serie A club Genoa and has played 83 games for the Georgian national team in which he has been a captain, announced about quitting the national team without specifying reason. At the event Kaladze was with his friend and a former team mate from AC Milan and a former European footballer of the year Andriy Shevchenko.
At the end of the inaugural congress of Ivanishvili’s movement his rapper son performed the Georgian national anthem together with the Georgian folk song choir, Georgian Voice.