Billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvil and Georgia's President End Their Beautiful Friendship
Georgia’s billionaire kingmaker, Bidzina Ivanishvili, has said he is disappointed in the man he tapped to be president of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili.
Such musings are no mere tittle-tattle. In Georgia, where ex-Prime Minister Ivanishvili, the country's richest resident, is seen as the real power behind the government, they invariably become the talk of the town.
In a March 18 interview with Imedi TV, the tycoon commented that he can no longer recognise the man whom, less than a year ago, he told voters would make "the best president ever."
Gone are the days when the two whiled away the hours discussing Hobbes, Freud and the meaning of life. The duo clicked instantly when philosophy-enthusiast Ivanishvili invited doctor of philosophy Margvelashvili to a dinner back in 2012 when Ivanishvili was campaigning to end the rule of President Mikheil Saakashvili and his United National Movement.
But since Margvelashvili became president last October, the two have grown estranged, the billionaire confided sorrowfully. “I can’t think of any instance of a man changed like this,” he complained.
The two no longer talk, he continued. “We don’t have informal relations,” said Ivanishvili. But he will find the strength to get over it. “This is not a tragedy; we both decided that we don’t need this [relationship].”
The president, though, is hurting, too. Ivanishvili’s words were “painful,” Margvelashvili told a March 19 press-conference, refusing to discuss the details of his differences with his onetime mentor. “This is between two people,” he said.
Ivanishvili's prime complaint with Margvelashvili appears to be for doing exactly what he told him to do -- making independent decisions. Margvelashvili hired an aide disliked by Ivanishvili and, ignoring his objections, tried to veto a bill backed by his ruling Georgian Dream coalition.
He also bucked the Georgian Dream by moving into the presidential palace, ex-President Saakashvili’s glass-domed marvel that Ivanishvili hates to see from his own glassy residence on the other side of town.
Yet Ivanishvili’s second protégé, 31-year-old Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, a longtime close associate, is still the apple of the billionaire’s eye. Now, that guy, opined Ivanishvili, really turned out well. So far, though, the only major sign of internal differences within the Georgian Dream was its Tbilisi-bred contingent rolling their eyes at the proposal to install a provincial man (Regional Development and Infrastructure Minister Davit Narmania, a native of Zugdidi) as the capital city’s mayor. For now, it remains unclear if Ivanishvili's public dressing-down of the president will cause a deeper rift within the ruling elite.
Giorgi Lomsadze is a journalist based in Tbilisi, and author of Tamada Tales.
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