18 September, 2014
In a way that only he can, former Prime Minister and Georgian Billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili gives an account of the brooding conflict between Georgia’s elected President, Giorgi Margvelashvili, and Ivanishvili’s own personally-appointed successor, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili. In the comments below Ivanishvili expresses his frustrations about how the media has covered the tensions between Georgia’s president and prime minister and declares that former President Saakashvili’s party, United National Movement is benefiting from the conflict — he even hints that UNM could be behind some of the drama. According to Ivanishvili the culprits in this admittedly childish struggle are of course “the media,” UNM, Georgian political “experts,” but most of all President Margvelashvili himself. And herein lies the problem:

The Georgian Dream coalition is turning against the very president whom it put into power less than a year ago. While Ivanishvili repeatedly says that laws have not been broken by the president and that this issue is simply a matter of what he calls “political correctness,” the patron and founder of Georgian Dream has taken sides by supporting PM Garibashvili and blaming the “competitiveness” of President Margvelashvili and those advising him. Yet perhaps what is most odd about Mr. Ivanishvili’s intervention in the matter is that he claims not to be involved in politics at all - to be just a member of “civil society.”
Mr. Ivanishvili rightly points out that the political infighting of the leading coalition is a distraction from the country’s real challenges: “Unemployment, [a] plethora of [other] problems, territorial integrity, foreign policy, etc.,” along with the biggest “threat” of all, the UNM - as he puts it. However, Ivanishvili’s comments on the apparent ongoing confrontation, instead of defusing a problem, have made this a key issue. The question is: Why?
For this reason in the coming weeks, tensions are only going to continue between the two heads of state: a Prime Minister who has the support of his cabinet and his party and a seemingly-rogue president who believes that such competition is not only “healthy” but necessary in the current political landscape. For many, President Margvelashvili’s choices have been astonishing; each move has further isolated him from the powerbrokers in his party’s coalition. The president is directly challenging those who put him in power and attempting to strengthen his position. He has explained his decisions rationally but the political nature of this rupture remains somewhat of a
mystery - and more importantly a distraction - for the Georgian public.
At this point it would be unwise to write off the president’s choices as simply ambitious: if former-philosopher President Margvelasvili is anything, power-hungry and ambitious are not among of his qualities. But what we know for certain is that the president is no longer taking orders, and Mr. Ivanishvili and the GD coalition are not happy about it.
In the coming weeks as this standoff comes to a head, the reasons behind the president’s choices will become clearer. Whether the divide continues or the two heads of state mend fences, one can only hope that the recent conflict has been more than just a distraction for the public from the country’s real problems and that it will somehow serve to strengthen Georgia’s fragile democracy.

Author: Will Cathcart
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