The chair of Georgia’s ruling party, Bidzina Ivanishvili, has announced he is retiring from politics, claiming to have achieved what he set out to do.
The founder of Georgian Dream said that as his 65th birthday approached he wished to return to his previous way of life, stating that his ‘mission was accomplished’.
This is the second time the billionaire, who critics accuse of running the country from behind the scenes, has vowed to step aside.
In a 17-page letter published on Georgian Dream’s website on Monday, Ivanishvili stated that his departure would not disrupt the government’s work and would strengthen the party.
‘I made the decision to leave the party permanently and completely retire from running it. I am leaving both the post of party chair and the party itself and will return to normal life, as it was before 2011’, he wrote.
Ivanishvili said there was currently no alternative to Georgian Dream, citing the party’s unprecedented third term in power following October’s parliamentary elections.
[Read more on OC Media: Georgia’s opposition divided on ‘Serbian’ model]
Ivanishvili said that during his 8 years heading Georgian Dream, the party had kept almost all their promises. However, he conceded that some issues — such as poverty and the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia — remained unresolved.
‘The problem of the occupied territories is the most difficult legacy that the previous government left us’, he said.
The richest man in Georgia
Before coming into politics in Ivanishvili had remained largely out of the public eye, known mainly for his philanthropy. In October 2011 he announced he was founding of a new political force — Georgian Dream — which won the 2012 parliamentary elections forming a new government.
The businessman, who had no prior political experience, wrote at the time that he would stay in politics for 2–3 years.
Ivanishvili announced he was retiring from politics in 2013, just a year after being elected prime minister. However, critics continued to insist he maintained control over the ruling party from behind the scenes.
Speaking of a possible return to politics in 2015, Ivanishvili said ‘I would compare my possible return with the second coming. For this, some kind of catastrophe must happen.’
Three years after this comment, in the spring of 2018, Ivanishvili took over as chair of the ruling party. He said at the time that hos motivation was ‘the well-being and a worthy future of the Georgian people.’
[Read more on OC Media: Ivanishvili returns to frontline Georgian politics]
After returning to frontline politics, Ivanishvili stayed largely out of the public eye, rarely speaking in public.
Since his return, Ivanishvili has made several high-profile appearances.
In November 2018, several days before presidential elections, he appeared in an emotional video plea asking for a year to correct the shortcomings of the government.
Another memorable speech by Ivanishvili was a promise to change the electoral system after protests erupted in the capital over the arrival in Georgia of Sergei Gavrilov, a Russian MP and member of the Communist Party, who was on a visit to Georgia to participate in the 26th General Interparliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy.
Gavrilov addressed parliament from in Russian from the speaker’s podium, which provoked protests from opposition politicians.
Ivanishvili's proposal to introduce a fully proportional electoral system for the 2020 elections came three days after the violent dispersal of an anti-government demonstration in Tbilisi on 20 June.
[Read more on OC Media: Protesters mark ‘Gavrilov’s Night’ anniversary in Tbilisi]
Ultimately the government backed down on the promise and elections were held under a mixed electoral system.