Bidzina Ivanishvili, the billionaire founder of the ruling Georgian Dream party, has announced his return to politics as the party’s ‘honorary chair’.
Ivanishvili announced his return to politics during a Georgian Dream party congress in Tbilisi on Saturday.
‘Exactly three years ago, I announced to the public my decision to distance myself from active political processes. Now, three years later, by my own decision, I’m returning to political life in the role of the party’s honorary chair’, said Ivanishvili.
This marks the former prime minister’s second formal ‘return’ to politics after the spring of 2018, when he retook the position of party chair following a five-year hiatus from politics.
In January 2021, after securing his party’s third consecutive victory in the October 2020 parliamentary elections, Ivanishvili announced that his ‘mission’ had been ‘accomplished’, and announced his retirement from politics for the second time.
Critics of Georgian Dream regard its founder, Ivanishvili, as the country’s ‘informal ruler’. One of the EU's demands for Georgia in order to advance towards membership was ‘deoligarchisation’ — an apparent reference to Ivanishvili.
Ivanishvili’s announcement came ten months before parliamentary elections set to take place in October 2024, as Georgia’s opposition groups vowed to defeat the ruling party.
However, the former prime minister denied that his political comeback was related to the upcoming elections.
‘My mission is not to strengthen the party even more but to protect the powerful team from human temptations’, said Ivanishvili, adding that Georgia’s political opposition being ‘obliterated’ could cause the ruling party to ‘relax’ and inspire internal rifts, as well as raising ‘risks of corruption’ in the government.
In his speech, Ivanishvili also criticised Giorgi Gakharia, a former Georgian Dream prime minister who resigned in early 2021, leaving the ruling party and forming his own opposition group.
‘The only thing that I couldn’t foresee was a betrayal of the country and the party, something Giorgi Gakharia dared to do a month after I distanced myself from politics'.
During his surprise public address on Saturday, Ivanishvili also recommitted to Georgia’s ambition to join the EU amidst a ‘complicated geopolitical situation’ in the region.
‘We have a chance to fully secure our national identity, fully restore state sovereignty and territorial integrity, to put Georgia on the list of high-income countries, and to make Georgia a member of the European Union by 2030’.