A newcomer on the Georgian political scene, "Georgian Dream", aims to promote the candidacy of Bidzina Ivanishvili for the next presidential election in 2013. As the political party starts to fully utilize the virtually unlimited financial resources of their Franco-Georgian oligarch leader, the methods that Ivanishvili has been using to rouse public support have started to worry NGOs.
To gain power in Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili has not hesitated to tap into his vast personal fortune. In addition to paying an army of lobbyists in Washington to promote his candidacy and enhance his credibility, the Franco-Georgian oligarch has pumped millions into his battle when it comes to the Georgian political scene. However, this massive spending spree seems to have given Ivanishvili the idea that he is somehow above the anti-corruption laws that have been set in place ever since Georgia became a democracy.
On June 5, several television channels broadcasted activists of Bidzina Ivanishvili's "Georgian Dream" handing out flyers in the city of Kutaisi. These flyers offered gifts redeemable for washing machines and other household appliances, as well as cash rewards of up to 1000 Lari. This is just one way by which Ivanishvili has attempted to illegally buy the support of the Georgian people. Just a few weeks after this flyer incident, the creation of a charitable organization known as the Komagi Foundation drew attention once again to the questionable dealings of Ivanishvili and his party. The Komagi Foundation was set up to support "victims of political repression" by offering free legal representation and financial support to these victims, to the tune of up to 5000 Lari per case, per month. The problem with this charity is that the association is largely funded by wealthy Georgian expatriates who support Bidzina Ivanishvili. One example is Vano Chkhartishvili, an Ivanishvili supporter, who has allegedly made numerous payments to these “victims of political repression” through offshore accounts. According to many observers, the primary purpose of this foundation is to buy votes in favour of Bidzina Ivanishvili.
These two instances are alarming enough to have instigated concern for the Georgian state in many NGOs. As a result, Transparency International, the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, and the Free Choice Coalition have all made statements denouncing the fact that the Komagi Foundation influences voters in favour of Bidzina Ivanishvili.
Earlier this month, Wilfried Martens, former prime minister of Belgium, attacked the methods of the "Georgian Dream" in an article published in Le Monde. "Vote buying, officials being offered a salary one hundred times to quit the current government administration, tens of thousands of satellite dishes, refrigerators and TV sets distributed to the citizens of Georgia, election observation structures made, organized, and funded by those who are being regulated by these same institutions- this is the reality that characterizes the ‘Georgian Dream.’” “When one analyzes the statements of some of the party’s leaders, members of the European Parliament have expressed disbelief, "explained the Chairman of the EPP, with reference to xenophobic and ultra-conservative positions taken by the party’s leaders and several relatives of Ivanishvili.
European politicians, NGOs, associations, and many other people are worried about the authoritarian road that Georgia is poised to take if Bidzina Ivanishvili is elected to become president of Georgia. Will Georgians take this step backwards into the lap of Moscow, or will the country rally together and oust this final wave of Russian influence that is threatening to overturn the independence that Georgia has fought so hard for? Time will tell. We wish this new democracy the best, and hope for its further development and economic prosperity, with the help of Saakaskvili.