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Kakha Bendukidze: Ivanishvili now faces the same problem as Saakashvili did in 2004

By Tamar Chergoleishvili
Tabula Magazine, 09 October '12

Former Minister of Economic Development of Georgia Kakha Bendukidze - one of the main ideologists of economic reforms under President Mikheil Saakashvili, spoke to Tabula magazine, explaining what Georgia could expect from the latest parliamentary elections, where president Saakashvili’s United National Movement lost to billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili – led Georgian Dream. Latest elections were the first precedent in the region when ruling authorities peacefully transfer power to the election-winner opposition.

Bendukidze, who is now founder and director of Free University in Tbilisi, speaks about the success of the Georgian economy and about President Saakashvili having shown himself as a true democrat.

How would you evaluate the eight-year-long governance by the National Movement?

Now, in the period of Bidzinizm (ruling by Bidzina Ivanishvili) it is fashionable to use quotes. The Gospel of Matthew says: "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit."

We can consider two main aspects. First - the economy has increased one and a half times, it is the real growth, nominally, growth was even bigger. Second – in the times of "controlled” media, "controlled court" and "controlled CEC (Central Election Commission)" opposition won elections. Everything else is minor compared to this.

The phrase "Tyrant Saakashvili lost elections" does not make sense. This is the same as saying that Bendukidze has pulled back his curly hair. Dictatorships do not lose in elections. Tyranny loses only though revolution. Even such soft authoritarianism, as it's been during Shevardnadze’s period, did not lose through elections.

A lot of things have happened, many of which we didn’t like. There are many things that we wanted to happen, but this government could not do it, including when I was part of it.

The results of elections may be very unpleasant, but it is important for our national development. In total, we, the voters, have made a mistake by bringing this [Georgian Dream] government [to power] - we will receive the result of it and then will act differently. I am very disappointed, but on the other hand satisfied in long-term perspective.

What threats do you see in having “Georgian Dream” in majority?

We were a semi-reformed country. For example, the education system - only one third of planned actions have been done. Many things were left. There were errors and the lack of time as well. Today I do not see people who will carry out the reforms.

I see great dangers regarding the crime in future. The “zero tolerance” policy was the basis of success in this sphere. I am afraid that fight against crime might weaken. Each citizen will personally feel the negative impact of that.

Russia is the danger of course. In this regard, I see a creeping threat rather than direct aggression. The danger is that an attempt of improving relations with Russia may turn into a concession.

We did not occupy Russia’s territories. What should we compromise? Does not matter what we say about Putin, that he is a good man and Saakashvili was bad… As a result, maximum Putin may come to Georgia or Bidzina may visit Moscow and then what?

There is Moldova example. Over the years, there was pro-Russian government in Moldova, the country has declared neutrality, their main TV channel broadcasts in Russian. However, the Russian market is closed to them periodically. As a result of concession policy, Moldova's territorial integrity can not be regained.

I do not even say anything about those people who want to control "Kazakhstan Channel". Bidzina himself does not want such discrediting people around him, perhaps there will be some attempt to isolate them.

According to your forecast what will happen in the next one year, as long as the President is representative of the United National Movement and the majority is “Georgian Dream”?

Ivanishvili now has the same problem as Saakashvili had in 2004, when collected a rubbish around him, called majority. However, Misha [Mikheil Saakashvili] had an ability to manage these people, he worked with them. I doubt Bidzina [Ivanishvili] can do that. Though, he sees what stupid people he is surrounded with.

Bidzina most probably understands that people in his surrounding can behave in a way that everything could fall apart. Whatever inadequate he may be, he doesn’t want everything to fall apart, for example, the Ministry of Interior to be headed by someone, who would spoil all the work and would let thieves-in-law (criminal bosses) in.

It is clear that for political struggle, on some extend he has used thieves, but I think he does not love thieves. Getting rid of these people should be in his interest. In Singapore Lee Kuan Yew had also used trade unions and organized criminals, then invited all those people at a party on a boat and sank the ship.

What should the [current] ruling party do to be effective as opposition?

Important task is now working with youth. In two weeks, this relationship was destroyed. There can be no nation where the youth - the future elite, is alienated from both political parties. What should happen, I do not know, but I think it is the most important task.

What do you think was the biggest strike for UNM?

The prison issue, it was a well-calculated strike.

What is Ivanishvili's biggest problem?

His values. These values are Soviet. His system of values is based on ranges, where for example, there is separate class of Inteligencia. There is no such thing anywhere in the world. Have you ever heard about American “Inteligencia”? There are American intellectuals. This is not a social status, it is a mental status.

I do not think that Putin has called him and told, go to Georgia and do this or that, otherwise you will be punished. Ivanishvili and Kremlin understand each other very well. There is no need for an agreement. It is possible that they may have an additional channel of communication, but for there was no need for sending daily notes to each other.

When Ivanishvili announced that he would overthrow the government, the Kremlin realized that they had to help him as much as possible in selling his assets [in Russia]. Only the good will of the Russian government would make possible selling Ivanishvili’s property under such conditions.

For example, how to sell a bank in Russia? In order to sell a back one has to receive permissions from the Federal Antimonopoly Service and from the National Bank. There are precedents in history, when anti-monopoly service was used as a tool for denial. For example, when Siemens wanted to buy Company Silovie Mashini (Power Machines) they could not receive any answer for year and a half, then finally it penetrated into their German mind that it meant no and they left it.

I'm not sure that Ivanishvili’s last sale is completed. This is interesting, because there are two options. This is a 900-million deal, is not it? It is doubtful that someone pay this money from their pockeis done through banks, you pay some part and banks issue the rest. Now, there are three banks in Russia, which could give credit of such amount - Sberbank, Vnesheconombank, and Vneshtorgbank. All of them are State Banks, I guarantee for 100% that in order to issue credit of such amount they have to go to Kremlin and ask. If it happened so, then it is understandable. If this was not the case, then it is lot more interesting - it was signed, but the money will be received in October. It is very strange, it turns out that a hostage is left. That reminds me of [Badri] Patarkatsishvili’s case, when there were two cases in Supreme Court of thre Russian Federation against him. The case was split into two, he won one, but the second was left. They kept it as hostage.

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