On October 1st, 2012, it was time. And the show went on. The increasingly-autocratic and dysfunctional government of Mikheil Saakashvili was swept away by the giddy tide of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s cobbled-together coalition, Georgian Dream.
You might say this emphatic rejection of the ruling party, Saakashvili’s United National Movement, and the thrusting into the ring of Georgia’s prodigal son and allegedly-eccentric billionaire – Bidzina Ivanishvili – was greeted in the west with the enthusiastic welcome normally reserved for a turd in the punch bowl, or a cockroach on a wedding cake. The west, not to put too fine a point on it, doted on the Columbia-educated, multilingual Georgian president (which he still is, until this October) as one of its own; a bold reformer and tireless advocate for western-style democracy – a fiction kept breathing by regular infusions of Georgian-taxpayer money to western lobbyists and PR firms, who sang the saccharine praises of Saakashvili the west loved to hear.
So says Lincoln Mitchell, in his punchy “What’s Next For Georgia? The End of the Rose Revolution“. My favourite outtake from this piece is, “Thus, this election did not end the Rose Revolution, because the Rose Revolution was already over. Rather, it defeated a regime that had used the imagery of the Rose Revolution to stay in power.” Amen, Mr. Mitchell. Full disclosure; Lincoln Mitchell was an “informal adviser” to the Georgian Dream party in the last election.
To the great surprise of no one, articles quickly proliferated which suggested Ivanishvili was a Russian stooge. Yulia Latynina – living proof of the chestnut that the wise speak because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something – cast Ivanishvili as “Georgia”s Chavez” (Hugo Chavez had died recently at the time, and our Yulia went on a bit of a Chavez bender for a couple of weeks). According to her, Ivanishvili would “destroy the state machinery that President Mikheil Saakashvili created that had done such a good job of serving peoples’ interests”, and had better get busy thinking up a distraction so Georgians would not remember his “grossly exaggerated campaign promises”. Julia Ioffe, like many western sources, focused on his reclusivness, his outsize home and his zoo of exotic animals to portray him as a kind of semi-political Michael Jackson. Continue reading