Tycoon Blues

Georgian billionaire, Bidzina Ivanishvili has announced his plans to pit his business expertise and his 5.5 billion dollar bankroll against the Saakashvili government in the 2012 parliamentary elections.

The news hasn’t been so well received by authorities…

Ivanishvili said that he wants to be Prime Minister and that he can transform the country into a democracy that will surprise Europe in two to three years. Then, he said, he will leave politics and return to his quiet life in the village and his Tbilisi mansion.

My Moscow Times piece HERE (and below if you don’t feel like registering at MT)

A Paranoia Epidemic Grips Many in Georgia

There is the Georgia with new roads, buildings and parks, more products at new grocery stores and policemen in new cars and uniforms that never take bribes. It’s the Georgia the World Bank has twice named the top reformer in the world and GW Bush called the “beacon of democracy.” This, we know, is all because of Mikheil Saakashvili.

Then there’s the Georgia where people take the batteries out of their phones when they talk politics. They unplug the television set if it is part of the Silknet network, because they believe Minister of Interior, Vano Merabishvili, owns that telecommunications provider and is listening. They whisper that they would support Ivanishvili but are afraid of what would happen to their family members if they did. Their fears may seem extreme, but they will tell you how their relatives or their neighbor’s relatives have been victims of the Georgian criminal justice system, where judges – not prosecutors – convince the innocent it’s better to accept a plea bargain and pay than to fight, lose and end up in an overcrowded prison cell for years.

Fear, experts say, is a negative affect induced by a perceived threat. The threat can be entirely fictitious, but the resulting fear is real enough. Today in Georgia, an epidemic of paranoia is gripping the nation and is affecting all segments of society, including the presidential administration.

Since Bidzina Ivanishvili announced his plans to organize an opposition against Mikheil Saakashvili, authorities have: stripped him and his wife of their Georgian citizenship; seized over $3 million of his bank’s cash (ironically at the same site Stalin committed the 1907 Tiflis bank robbery); detained his Russian aid Valery Levin and announced he possessed items of an “occult character used to predict the future”; sacked Zurab Abashidze and Victor Dolidze, two city councilmen belonging to Our Georgia-Free Democrats, an opposition party associated to Ivanishvili. Saakshvili finally came out and stated a “serious opposition force” is trying to throw the country into the past. And this is just the beginning. Meanwhile, the major TV networks have been busy smearing Ivanishvili. Some countries call it slander, but in Georgia it’s free media.

The upsurge in fear is a dangerous condition that results in irrational behavior. A nation that unplugs electronic devices before they talk in their homes needs a government to reassure them their fears are misguided. Instead they have a government manic over one man’s aspiration to enter politics.


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