Georgian billionaire comes out fighting
From rich recluse to political force, Bidzina Ivanishvili has vowed to oust the President
A reclusive, eccentric billionaire has stepped out of the shadows and vowed to topple the regime of the Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili.
For years, Georgians have known little about Bidzina Ivanishvili, who until last week had only ever given one interview, despite being one of the richest men in the world. The tycoon, who made his fortune in Russia, lives in a custom-built contemporary castle on the outskirts of Tbilisi and is rumoured to keep a retinue of pet zebras.
He was also known for his philanthropy, and for personally funding hundreds, if not thousands, of Georgian artists and intellectuals. But he hated all publicity, and it was widely assumed that he had no political ambitions.
Until now. In a rambling open letter addressed to Mr Saakashvili and the Georgian people, Mr Ivanishvili threw down the gauntlet to the country's pro-Western president two weeks ago. He said he was dismayed at the state of Georgian politics, and had twice resolved to emigrate for good. "I managed to overcome this fear, doubt and scepticism in myself," the billionaire wrote. "Now it's your turn."
The charismatic Mr Saakashvili came to power in the bloodless Rose Revolution of 2003, promising to end Soviet-era corruption and dictatorship and make Georgia a European democracy. The country did change radically, with drastic reforms of the economy and police, but critics say Mr Saakashvili always had an autocratic streak.
Constitutionally, he must step down when his second term ends in early 2013, but there is speculation that he may be preparing to emulate the political course of his nemesis, Vladimir Putin, and move to a newly strengthened prime-ministerial role.
"I know that he wants to stay in power," Mr Ivanishvili said in an interview after his letter was published. "We should not allow that." He said he would link up with certain existing opposition forces and expected to become the largest grouping in the Georgian parliament.
Mr Ivanishvili's unexpected entry into the political fray has prompted what appears to be a well orchestrated campaign against him in recent days. He was stripped of his Georgian passport, on the grounds that he had acquired French citizenship. Georgian television, largely state controlled, has sought to portray him as an agent of the Kremlin, and one of his Georgian banks has been raided amid accusations of money laundering.
The billionaire insisted he was not a Kremlin stooge, and said he wanted to "astonish Europe with the level of democracy" he planned to create in the country.
- 1 Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
- 2 Car tax disc changes: Two days to go - and they affect you much more than just not displaying a piece of paper
- 3 Ed Sheeran dedicates song to David Cameron
- 4 Now we know whose fault it is if you end up being murdered in Thailand
- 5 35,000 walrus gather ashore on north-west Alaska beach 'for a rest'
Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
Five-year-old Iris Grace is raising awareness of autism through her extraordinary paintings
Car tax disc changes: Five facts you never knew about your (almost obsolete) tax disc
The Aral Sea: Nasa pictures show how what was once the fourth largest lake in the world has become almost completely dry
Amal Alamuddin: Human rights lawyer's legal chambers forced to upgrade website following George Clooney wedding
Isis, we are told, is a 'clear and dangerous threat to our way of life'. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
- < Previous
- Next >
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...
£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...
Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...