In a TV interview broadcast on Tuesday night, Georgian Dream chair Bidzina Ivanishvili called the results of 28 October’s vote a ‘cold shower’ for the ruling party, and again vowed to make it right within a year.
‘The first round of elections showed that people are angry and disappointed’, said Ivanishvili in his first interview since the party’s chosen candidate failed to win outright in 28 October’s vote.
Talking to TV channel Imedi, Ivanishvili traced the popular anger back to the period of his return to politics in late April, which led to the resignation of the former Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili.
The party chairman characterised Georgian Dream, which he founded in 2012, as a group that had ‘lost the ability to communicate with people’.
‘A crack has appeared between the ruling party and society’, Ivanishvili admitted, blaming the ‘excessive self-confidence of the party controlling all branches of the government’.
Ivanishvili recalled the ‘unprofessional’ and ‘embarrassing’ results of the Psycho Project pollster company his party hired to conduct election polls as an indication of ‘over-confidence’ and ‘expectations absolutely detached from reality’.
The party ‘didn’t even make a professional poll’, he complained.
Three days before voting day, Psycho Project gave Zurabishvili 52% and 28% to her closest rival Giorgi Vashadze. Zurabishvili narrowly defeated Vashadze in the first round with 39% of votes to 38% — a difference of just over 14,000 votes.
‘I will convince the public within a year that this is a popular government’, Ivanishvili vowed.
He insisted during the interview that Georgia needed a ‘law-abiding government hired by the people, a bureaucracy that respects the rules of the game itself and then asks for respect of them from others’.
Ivanishvili also reiterated earlier observations on the relationship between poverty and democracy.
‘It is difficult to fully respect human rights while a decent job and decent income for one’s family is missing’.
Ivanishvili vowed to help create a ‘people-oriented’ and ‘caring’ government.
He characterised the opposition as being unable to offer ‘constructive, well-grounded criticism’, and labelled this one of the factors behind his party making mistakes.
‘It’s very bad for society that we still have to choose between white and black’, Ivanishvili lamented, also suggesting that his Georgian Dream party might be abusing the situation of having ‘bad opponents’.
‘Society must have a choice between good and better’.
The Georgian Dream leader insisted during the interview that the opposition United National Movement Party (UNM) was unable to return to power using legitimate methods, and hence looked to destabilise the country. He accused the UNM of misinforming the public.
‘I am sympathetic to those people they had managed to confuse […] we will make it right’, vowed Ivanishvili.
He also urged party members to respect the law when it came to elections, and warned anyone against planning to rig them.
‘That cold shower that the public offered to Georgian Dream showed to the most sceptical Europeans that elections are not rigged in Georgia […] I personally said that, sorry for the expression, I'll cut off the hand of whoever dares to engage in election fraud’.
The Georgian Dream leader said that it took five years for the international community to understand the ‘style of Georgian Dream’, and to be convinced they were a pro-western party. He accused the UNM of misinforming Europeans and Americans about them.
In the interview, the Georgian Dream party chair called Salome Zurabishvili an ‘ideal’ candidate for president. He praised her loyalty to her Georgian identity and culture while living in France, and scolded others for ridiculing her Georgian language skills.
‘She is absolutely an independent candidate, with her own vision, practice, experience’, Ivanishvili told journalists. He characterised her opponent in the second round, the UNM’s Grigol Vashadze, as ‘not meeting any of the criteria’ to become president.
Ivanishvili called the direct method of electing presidents an ‘ugly leftover’ from the old constitution but said the ruling party had decided earlier to give in to opposition.
Georgia will elect the next president, in six years time, through a 300-member special council.
Initially hesitant and ‘against advice to do so’, Ivanishvili responded to a hypothetical question about Zurabishvili losing the election.
He said that it would mean the opposition would attempt to incite mass protests, but also expressed confidence the government wouldn’t allow anyone to go beyond lawful methods of protest.
Ivanishvili said Zurabishvili’s loss would also damage the economy and slow foreign investments. Additionally, it would harm Georgia’s international image and would ‘confuse’ Georgia’s foreign partners, he said.
‘No vote buying’
Ivanishvili insisted that his charity foundation Cartu offering to buy out the financial debts of about 600,000 Georgians had nothing to do with the election run-off, as he had promised to address the issue in May.
A day before the interview, the Georgian government announced plans to write off ₾1.5 billion ($570 million) in unpaid loans for those blacklisted by Georgian banks.
[Read on OC Media: PM promises to write off ₾1.5 billion in debts for 600,000 Georgians]
Ivanishvili characterised the initiative as one of the successes of the ruling party and promised to continue working on excessive debts in Georgia.