Georgia: Billionaire Ivanishvili Auditions Allies for Saakashvili Fight
He may have lost his Georgian citizenship this week, but tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili nonetheless is busy building a political army for a battle royale with President Mikheil Saakashvili during Georgia's 2012 parliamentary elections.
The billionaire businessman, though, cautions that he's not taking just anybody on board. Selecting "the right staff" has proven instrumental in his past business success, and politics will be no different, he claimed in an October 12 statement.
Ineligible candidates include the Christian Democrats Party, parliament's largest minority party, and the New Rights Party and Labor Party, both outspoken government critics. Ivanishvili accused these groups of being in cahoots with government, an observation that sparked an angry response from the parties’ leaders.
Eligible candidates, as determined in what Georgian media billed as Ivanishvili's “casting," include former UN Ambassador Irakli Alasania, leader of the Free Democrats Party. The party announced today that a full understanding was reached between Alasania and Ivanishvili.
And, like any business operation, team Ivanishvili is also thinking about media. Ivanishvili has invited all Georgian journalists disenchanted with what he calls the government’s attempts to control the national news to work for him. He earlier offered to buy two Tbilisi-based opposition-minded television stations, as well.
But some local commentators are taking with a large grain of salt Ivanishvili’s complaints about the lack of democracy in Georgia, since, they say, he did not seem to mind abuses of democratic freedoms in Russia, where he made his billions. Saakashvili allies quickly provide the chorus for such criticism.
Apparently, the fact that Ivanishvili has lost his citizenship, an event that now prevents him from forming a political party or running for office, is a mere technical detail. "I will definitely come to power . . . " he declared on October 12. "I always keep my promise."