Dreaming of a Cloud Base

A charming gentleman called Tom told me he was very glad that I hadn’t given up blogging; that really made my day, it seems I have something of a readership. Another box ticked, and it means at least one person is reading this madness. So today class, let’s talk politics.

To those of you who don’t live in Georgia, you’ve probably never heard of Bidzina Ivanishvili. A billionaire businessman who made his fortune in banking and steel in Russia, he has returned to Georgia after spending significant amounts of his life in Moscow and France to challenge for the Presidency. He has founded his own political party, and united the minority parties under the banner of his own brand name, ‘Georgian Dream’ (no one seems to know what the ‘Georgian Dream’ is. Knowing Georgian males, it’s probably Megan Fox having sex with Keria Knightly after Vladimir Putin’s sudden violent death. Bidzina, old son, you’ve been gone too long).

Now, talk to any Georgian about their country in the ’90s and you’ll hear a true horror story. President Saakashvili turned it around, making Georgia Eastern Europe’s leading nation, but is now widely hated for ‘losing the war’ (?) and extreme enthusiasm for American influence. I suppose that opinion has some degree of merit; my own opinion of Washington’s activities here is well-documented on these pages, but I can’t blame him completely for the war. Anyway, enter Mr. Ivanishvili…

He’s being treated as a combination of Donald Trump, Jesus, David the Builder and Mike Tyson. Worth around eight billion dollars, his Bond-villain compound sits on the Mtatsminda mountain staring at the Presidential Palace, and almost every Georgian I know seems to think he is just the man this place needs.

What I don’t understand is why. The man hasn’t once said exactly what it is he’s going to do, his brief public addresses basically saying to the crowd, ‘Well chaps, I’m glad you’re all here. You don’t like Misha? No? Me neither! Capital, what? So, vote for me next year, and Georgia will have a better future!’.

He does seem to have a generous side; he apparently paid for Sameba Cathedral to be built, and helped with the re-equipping of the Georgian military. All very fine; but it was Saakasvhili who actually rid this country of corruption and turned things around. Besides, Georgia still has problems. If you have eight billion dollars to your name, how much would it cost to have every street in the city repainted? Not a lot, I wouldn’t think.

Ivanishvili doesn’t strike me as a fool. I think he knows that if he gets into office there isn’t really much he can realistically change, so acts like further aesthetic improvement to the city will give the people who voted him cause to say ‘Ha! I knew it! What a man, doing these good deeds!’. People believe what they want to; they’d call you a liar if you tried to tell them he could do it this week. I know, I tried yesterday.

What strikes me as strange is just how popular he seems to be. When asked why they like him, the standard response is ‘Well, he seems to be a really nice man, and he’s got loads of money, didn’t you know that?’. Personal wealth and personality isn’t really what people should look for in a politician. Furthermore, the man has never held any political office, and running a business is not the same as running a nation. I think he’d look a lot more sincere if he ran for a minor public office first, show a real willingness to give back to the country. Aiming for the Presidency in one go seems a little hasty.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike the man; it’s impossible since he hasn’t clearly stated exactly what he intends to do to this place. What I’m really getting at is it’s shocking how people have forgotten how Saakashvili almost literally dragged them out of the shadows, and how some people are more than willing to say the ’90s and Soviet days were recent years while forgetting the Rose Revolution.

Personally I don’t get why Ivanishvili wants to be President. If I had eight billion dollars I wouldn’t be writing this now; I’d be lying on my back in a swimming pool on my Cloud Base watching Megan Fox dance around a pole while Tony Blair fights George Bush to the death while being chased by a laser-beam shooting shark. If you can have all that, who wants a Presidency?

Another thing about the man is he just doesn’t look like a politician at all. He looks like a billionaire playboy businessman. Just yesterday they had the big ‘Wet Dream’ rally and his albino pop-singer son was performing on the stage with hookers (I think they were dressed as dancers) wobbling around behind him. Can you imagine Obama or David Cameron doing that? They’d be the laughing stock of the world. A Georgian man the other day described Ivanishvili as a ‘breath of fresh air’. Not quite. Vin Diesel, now, he’d be a breath of fresh air.

It reminds me of 2008 (no, not the war, I know you’ve all had enough of that now) when Barack Obama was elected President. ‘Change! It’s change!’ they shouted. The day after the election, Enzo Calzaghe, father and trainer of his son, two-weight boxing world champion Joe, looked across at Roy Jones, their American opponent, and said ‘Change, mate! Change! There ain’t gonna be no fuckin’ change’.

Obama’s godlike status was gone by the start of 2010, the Republicans predictably unsatisfied and the liberals upset when he didn’t do everything they’d imagine he would. Well, it looks like Bidzina is going the same way. Saakashvili enjoyed massive popularity at the beginning. And now look at him.

To be fair, he doesn’t make life easy on himself. People call him a dictator and a tyrant, and rather than try and contradict those titles he seems only to make bad worse. Why, last year a theatre director was arrested for staging a play that painted him in an unsatisfactory light (wait until you read my novel, Misha. Readers, if I die in a car accident you heard it here first). His wife also barged into a certain hotel surrounded by bodyguards and demanded everyone leave the restaurant. Not a very effective way of endearing you to the people, is it? Well, it would have worked until she met my wife, who engaged her in a shouting match and demanded she let the rest of the guests stay (she’s a fierce little bundle, my Natia, my little piranha fish).

Natia is very worried that when if he comes to power things will change. I doubt it, at least on a day-to-day basis for people like you and me. Relations with the Americans might get frostier (hurrah!) and things with the Russians might improve, but the better communication between Russia and Georgia does mean a dramatic decrease in the possibility of another war.

So there you have it. My brief take on Georgia’s politics. Let me know what you all think, I’m sure a lot of you will have an opinion on this since Georgian Dream seems more popular than God these days. Peace out.



About tcjogden69

Former soldier, current boxing trainer/student living in Tbilisi.
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10 Responses to Dreaming of a Cloud Base

  1. Hmmm..... says:

    Hey there,

    I’ve commented on a couple of Neal’s posts before, and I saw you referenced so I decided to check this blog out. I’m glad I did.

    Anyways…. about Saakashvili not being popular…that’s only really in Tbilisi. In Batumi and Kutaisi, for example, there’s not as much hate and people are more grateful to him. That’s because before him, there was nothing there. Now, Batumi’s a booming tourist town and the highway from Batumi and Tbilisi is ACTUALLY driveable; when I was there a couple of years ago, I never sensed hate from the people; on the contrary, I met more people who liked Saakashvili than not. Kutaisi still has work to go, but they have a government building there and parts of the city were remodeled. Not to mention, Misha got all the crooks and Mafia out of Kutaisi. Naturally, they like him more.

    In general, people from Tbilisi like to complain and they look down on the rest of Georgia – to them, anything outside of Tbilisi is “the countryside” and they make fun of it. Because of this, they think they should get “special treatment” when it comes to fixing the country. It’s like the Paris of Georgia. I’m from Tbilisi but whenever I go to Georgia I always find that non-Tbilisians are more friendly to me…..especially people from the coast. Also, there have always been certain families who were more “favored” in Tbilisi with regards to jobs, etc… and since Misha changed all that naturally they hate him. Misha does do pretty stupid things, and I’m on the fence about him, but at least I acknowledge the good that he did. I remember reading on facebook “What has he done for us? I mean, he brought electricity back to Tbilisi. Big deal.” It was a huge deal in the 90’s, and everyone was complaining….but now no one remembers! It’s very frustrating!

    Georgia’s politics suck- there is no good opposition to Misha, and he can’t be president forever (I wouldn’t want that anyway). I think the “Georgian Dream” is supposed to be Ivanishvili, since he will make the “Georgian Dream” (jobs for everyone, no more poverty, etc..) come true. At least, that is the premise.

    • tcjogden69 says:

      A very interesting comment indeed, and you have confirmed what I’ve been thinking; there’s a reason why Misha has been stalking around the countryside and Kutaisi lately, since he knows his popularity in the capital is waning. Do you think the elections will be closer than people in Tbilisi imagine?
      I certainly know what you mean about Tbilisi natives…my wife is born and raised here, and is very disparaging towards people elsewhere, which I find quite amusing. I’m certainly on the fence about Misha too…whoever you are, you seem to agree with me on almost everything! Perhaps you’d like to read my blogs on him here? He’s mentioned pretty frequently, if I recall. I’d value your opinion.

      • Hmmm..... says:

        Misha’s popularity in the capital started waning a couple of years ago…in 2007 if I recall correctly. About the elections…I’m not sure. Ivanisvhili is VERY popular- I can see it just from facebook. Last time we had elections, Grecikha (Levan Gachechiladze, one of the main oppositioners) got a big part of the Tbilisi vote. If you don’t know who he is, please look him up. It’s a shame that he won so much of Tbilisi -_-
        So far, even if Misha does not win Tbilisi, I think he will win the rest of the country.
        Thanks for that- I’m pretty busy right now, but if I have free moments I’ll take a look at the rest of your stuff. I wanted to comment on the Abkhaz entry but it would have been an essay hehe

      • tcjogden69 says:

        Oh I know him well; I saw him the Tbilisi Marriott and sang ‘Misha Margaria’ at him for fun. He didn’t laugh 😉 I know what you mean about Facebook, he has an unholy amount of ‘likes’; when last time I looked Misha has way under half of Bidzina’s numbers. Follow me if you like, but thanks for talking to me, it’s been a real pleasure, I hope you like what else you read on here.

  2. Gio says:

    Renovated cities and roads look just fine, but what’s the value of them if there are no real changes in social affairs? Unfortunately I don’t see any substantial improvement in the quality of life in Georgia overall. Nor have I seen genuine efforts from the government to tackle social issues at the profound level. Why so, I’m not sure but they really have not given much thought to social reforms and I think that’s the one that really matters.

    • tcjogden69 says:

      I think urban development is pretty important whatever society people live in. As for quality of life, I think Georgia has sort of hit a wall; it’s a damn right better than it was in the ’90s, but it’ll need more economic development before they can progress any further.
      I think you’re absolutely right about the government neglecting social issues. Saakasvhili seems to get far too bogged down in his NATO dreams and chewing the ankles of Russia. Sometimes I wonder who he thinks he’s ruling for; his own ego or the people of this country.

  3. Gio says:

    I agree that urban development is important, but in Georgia it seems to be the highest priority which is very inadequate considering poor socioeconomic background.

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