Bidzina Ivanishvili returns to Georgian frontline politics

Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder of the Georgian Dream, Georgia's governing party, made a dramatic return to front line politics on Saturday (30 December), accepting the position of Honorary Chairman of the party, a role which he himself described as  being to protect the leadership team of Georgian Dream "from human temptations" and to become the ruling party's  "new center of gravity".  

The appointment was announced at a congress of the Georgian Dream held on Saturday and televised live on many Georgian TV stations.

Ivanishvili, a self-made billionaire, emerged from obscurity in 2011 to challenge Misha Saakashvili and his United National Movement who had ruled Georgia since 2003. Ivanishvili established the Georgian Dream party which swept to power in elections in 2012. He served as prime minister for a year, after which he said he was leaving politics. But he returned sometime later concerned about the turn his party was taking. Having cleaned the government from various characters, he subsequently left politics again.

There is great speculation in Georgia as to what the reasons for his latest return to frontline politics, given that he himself admits he is uncomfortable in politics. His speech at Saturday's congress may have raised more questions than answered. 

The Georgian Dream headquarters released the full text of the speech of Ivanishvili at the Congress, which is reproduced below:

Exactly 3 years ago I informed the public about my decision to distance myself from active political processes. And now, after 3 years, on my own initiative, I am returning to political life as the honorary chairman of the party.

I value honesty in life most of all and, therefore, would like to honestly explain to people the reasons behind my decision.

As you know, political activity is not in my nature. Everyone remembers that even before the 2012 elections, I shared with the public my intention to leave politics very soon after winning the elections. It was unbelievable for many at the time. However, you also remember that at the end of 2013, I kept my word, and made a decision, which was unprecedented in the history of world politics and left the post of head of government on my own free will, a year after assuming the position of Prime Minister.

I would like to remind you that I did not come for a political position. I decided to go into politics with the belief that this step of mine would most serve the interests of the country and people. I left politics a year later with the confidence that I had completed my mission and that the criminals would never have the ambition to return to power. However, as it turned out later, the criminal political system had deeper roots than it seemed at first glance.

I first had to return to politics in 2018. I will no longer bother you by reminding the reasons for this decision. Let me just remind you of the words of the former EU ambassador. The ambassador, whose family was the friend of my family, told me: if you had not returned, nothing would have been left of the ruling party in a month’s time. It was true, and I knew it very well. However, from what the ambassador said, I realized that what I saw and assessed, it turned out that it was clear from the outside too.

Then I fulfilled my mission, we organized a team from the scratch, built a system, and only after that I left politics for the second time. Besides, I was about to reach retirement age, which meant I had another honorable reason for this.

The only thing I could not foresee was the betrayal of the country and the team, which Giorgi Gakharia deigned just one month after I distanced myself from politics. At that time, I had to assume the function of an advisor, and if I had not helped the team with consultations, the processes would have developed in the most difficult scenario for the country.

Since then, I communicated with 2-3 leaders of the party, which contributed to maintaining a healthy situation in the team. I would like to emphasize that giving advice to the team by the former leader of the party is a common occurrence and this kind of thing happened in many democratic countries.

Today Georgia is facing difficult challenges. The geopolitical situation around our country has become complicated and the challenges have increased. Accordingly, it became difficult to fulfill the tasks facing the country. In such conditions, even a small mistake on the part of the government represented by the ruling party can cost the country very dearly. Georgia's national goals can be considered essentially fulfilled only after we fully protect the national identity, fully restore the state's sovereignty, unite the country and fulfill foreign political tasks - Georgia's main foreign political task today is integration into the European Union.

When I left politics, I left a fully qualified team at the head of the ruling party, which was able to overcome many difficulties and accomplish tasks during the past 3 years. Against this background, unfortunately, I repeat - unfortunately, the opposition has been completely broken. The constituent part of politics, which is responsible for controlling the ruling team in the political system, was destroyed.

The opposition, burdened down by its criminal past, was not distinguished by healthy and effective control of the government even before, but now it has no more oversight resources left. Instead of effective control by the opposition parties, we are left with a flood of lies that flows daily from their media outlets and has already become so worn out that it can no longer cause even the slightest discomfort to the ruling team.

With the destruction of the opposition, the risks in the ruling team are increasing. The absence of opposition can easily confuse and weaken the ruling party. In addition, when there is no one left to challenge outside, there is a temptation to invent conflict within the team. Also, in the absence of opposition, need for control of the risks of corruption increases, which requires special safeguarding.

All this led me to an uncomfortable decision to return to politics and occupy the position of honorary chairman of the ruling party, about which I recently appealed to the leadership of the party founded by me.

If parliamentary elections were held now, Georgian Dream would get 90-100 mandates even without an election campaign. Therefore, my main goal is not to further strengthen the electoral party, but to protect an over-strengthened team from human temptations. The ruling party needs a new center of gravity and I believe that my mission of this new center of gravity is timely and necessary today. For this, consultations with 2-3 people will no longer be enough, and I believe that the fulfillment of the tasks facing the country requires much wider consultations and coordination between me and the team.

I would like to emphasize that as the honorary chairman of the party, I will be the main advisor of the team. I don't want to encompass the right of the current chairman of the party, who perfectly performs the management of the party and will continue to perform the function of managing the party in the future.

I believe that my political and life experience and relevant advice are needed for the team to lead our country to final victory. We have the opportunity to fully protect our national identity, fully restore state sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, put Georgia in the ranks of high-income countries by 2030 and join the European Union. It is our duty to make full use of this opportunity and we should spare no effort for this.

Our Motherland, our noble and proud people deserve only the best. The responsibility of each of us is to do everything possible for the progress and success of Georgia. It was this responsibility that brought me back to politics.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! May the year 2024 bring new success to our country, bring happiness and joy to each of you and your families!
 

source: commonspace.eu with Georgian Dream (Tbilisi)
photo: Bidzina Ivanishvili (archive picture)

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