Two National Visions for Georgia
In October, Georgia will elect its Parliament after a political struggle that has engaged two men in the heat of the battle to determine the fate of Georgia.
On one side there is the current President Mikhail Saakashvili, who is close to Europe, with a presidency marked by the Russian-Georgian war of 2008. On the other side, we have Bidzina Ivanishvili- a billionaire with many faces, who is in favour of real cooperation between Georgia and her powerful Russian neighbour. Suffice to say, these two men have little in common.
Between the two opponents, the impending confrontations during the elections in October will make for quite the spectacle. The challenger, Ivanishvili, is set to destabilize his opponent even before the battle. By handing out cash and other sorts of initiatives in return for votes for his political party “Georgian Dream”, his actions are questionable, and lack good political taste, in any manner. From his home, a huge palace of glass and steel, Ivanishvili organizes massive donations to universities, hospitals, schools and museums in his hometown of Chorvila.
For now, his openly patriotic approach seems to be working. Armed with a massive fortune of over $6 billion, Ivanishvili is campaigning skillfully, using the international media and rich contacts to bash his opponent.
Ivanishvili made his fortune in Russia, and still holds a significant amount of shares in Gazprom. The billionaire has decided to sell a portion of his assets to finance his Georgian campaign. With the blessing of the Kremlin inner circle, his assets were sold at a price well above fair market price, according to a Russian financial expert.
Now, openly supported by the Orthodox Church, Ivanishvili has managed to gather tens of thousands of supporters in Tbilisi on the 27th of May. Facing him, Saakashvili still has the majority vote for having extricated the country from Russian domination.