Georgia's PM Explores the Limits of Privacy
A $2-billion investment fund, the limits to bipartisanship, and the hazards of adultery, both political and personal, were, on February 5, among the many talking points of Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, who spent hours filling in Georgia about his cabinet's first months in office.
The televised parley between Ivanishvili and a roomful of journalists offered a peek into his plans, but, more significantly, into possible tensions within his ruling Georgian-Dream coalition.
Looking ahead to Georgia's presidential vote in October, Ivanishvili tossed out the observation that the respected, circumspect constitutional lawyer Vakhtang Khmaladze, a Georgian Dream parliamentarian, is a better fit for the head of state, than, say, the handsome and ambitious defense minister, Irakli Alasania.
And here is where the discussion took a bizarre turn. Ivanishvili alleged that President Mikheil Saakashvili's team is trying to seduce Defense Minister Alasania into switching sides. Quite literally, too.
In response to a reporter's question, Ivanishvili acknowledged that he had requested an explanation from Alasania about an alleged trip he made to Dubai, and then to France with the wife of a key Saakashvili loyalist, Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava, and another companion.
There had been, he told reporters, "a little misunderstanding in Dubai" and "we should forget this."
“Everyone can make a mistake, and Alasania is still a young man," he elaborated. "As for the France trip and the wife, all of that is very personal and I don’t pry into personal matters." Rather, he discusses them in a televised press conference.
"Many of my Georgian friends cheat on their wives, but it is very personal . . . " he continued, adding that, for him, the family "represents something different." He underlined that "I don't mean Irakli [Alasania] here," repeating that "I don't want to comment on rumors."
But, for all intents and purposes, as reporters giggled away, he had.
The reasons for the prime minister appearing to implicate his own defense minister in an alleged extramarital affair are not entirely clear, but the rivalry between the two men over the past month -- downplayed by both -- could, arguably, play a role.
Saakashvili's former UN envoy, Alasania is a once-key Ivanishvili ally who recently lost his deputy-prime-minister post after a tug-of-war with the prime minister over his reported presidential ambitions.
Although Ivanishvili has emphasized repeatedly that the 39-year-old Alasania is still part of his team, he also noted that any team member is free to leave whenever suits.
Neither Alasania nor Ugulava are known to have responded publicly to the comments .
The smutty rumors aside, the prime minister claimed that his government has so far had one success after the other building a better, brighter Georgian democracy (and a solidly pro-Western one), and that he has no regrets of which to speak.
An offer by President Saakashvili's United National Movement to support Georgian-Dream-proposed constitutional changes in exchange for the Georgian Dream agreeing to a constitutional amendment to commit Georgia to a pro-Western foreign policy he dismissed as "horse trading."
"We . . . do not need their help . . . " he said.
But foreign investors' help, apparently so. Ivanishvili offered to give hesitant investors an extra incentive to put their cash in Georgia with a $2-billion sovereign fund in partnership with JP Morgan Chase and Co. The New-York-City-based financial services firm has not commented.