aarrrrrrggggghhhhhhhhh — I missed the biggest political event of the year

How could this happen? How I could be rewriting my book proposal and editing my film at home when 80,000 people were gathering in the heart of Tbilisi in order to show their support for the opposition candidate for prime minister/president????  I could have missed the second Rose Revolution, for pity’s sake.

On the other hand, some Georgian journalists didn’t know that a huge crowd was going to turn out to show their support for Bidzina Ivanishvili and his Georgian Dream party. The national TV stations did not inform the public, but that’s no surprise; the national TV stations are controlled by Misha Saakashvili’s party. I’ve heard that word was spread via Facebook and via the TV station owned by Ivanishvili.

To learn more, please read this article in The New York Times. The photo also came from The Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/28/world/europe/tens-of-thousands-in-georgia-protest-president.html?emc=tnt&tntemail0=y

Although I can’t report, I will add a little analysis. As I wrote in an earlier blog, I believe that Saakashvili will “pull a Putin.” After 8 years as president, he will serve as prime minister. Misha has already convinced “his” parliament to change the constitution in order to transfer most of the power from the president to the prime minister. Until yesterday, I didn’t think that any party could present a significant challenge to the National Movement Party. Misha’s party simply has too much power. It controls the executive, legislative and judiciary branches of government as well as the TV part of the “fourth estate,” the news media. But today–today the opposition has hope, and the National Movement Party is scared. The key event will be the Parliamentary elections in Fall 2012. Will Bidzina’s party gain enough seats to choose the prime minister? Or will Saakashvili’s party prevail? If Bidzina’s party wins, who will become prime minister? If Saakashvili’s party wins. . . well . . . Misha has not denied that he would become prime minister.

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

One final twist. Bidzina is not allowed to run for office. His opposition party, however, introduced a bill that would change the constitution to enable Bidzina to run. Parliament passed the bill. We are waiting to learn if Saakashvili will sign the bill. If Saakashvili signs the bill, Bidzina will NOT run for office. Surprise!! Why not? Because Bidzina disapproves of changing the country’s constitution to benefit an individual, even if that individual is himself. Now, if you’re like me, you’re wondering whether Bidzina would truly stay out of politics after 80,000 people in Tbilisi showed their support? Maybe. Maybe Bidzina will push another into the prime minister role and Bidzina will simply become an advisor to the government. I don’t think that the richest man in Georgia, with $6 billion or so, is seeking power.

Look carefully at this photo. Notice that it says that Saakashvili is building a new Georgia. Not the National Movement Party. Not all Georgians. Just Misha. Moreover, the location of this sign is quite remarkable. It hangs on the front of the Parliament building. Can you imagine the US Congress allowing President Barack Obama to hang a huge campaign sign on the front of its building? The Republicans would go nuts, and rightly so.

Which is the root of the problem: money or politics?

From civil.ge

The conflict at Maestro TV has continued for more than two weeks. Erosi, the head of Maestro TV’s managing company, continues to occupy the Maestro TV station and he is trying to start broadcasting via satellite. The owners of Maestro, whose spokesman is Mamuka Glonti, are broadcasting in a limited way via Maestro’s radio station. To me it seems clear that the two sides are fighting over control of the TV station, its equipment, and its broadcasts. And it also seems clear that they are fighting over money. Erosi claims he put $4.5 million into the station; the owners claim Erosi stole $.5 million and did not spent $4.5 million. I also believe that the fight occurred when the owners of Maestro struck a financially lucrative deal with billionaire Bidza Ivanishvili without including Erosi.

In addition, the fight is about politics.

I’m sure that Maestro TV is one of the two independent TV stations that transmits news critical of Saakashvili’s party. I’m also sure that Maestro TV has been partially paralyzed and that Saakashvili’s party is secretly very pleased that Maestro cannot, temporarily, broadcast criticisms of its policies.

What I don’t know is whether politics or money started the fight. Is Erosi intentionally damaging the main mouthpiece of the opposition-supporting media in order to help Saakashvili? Or is Erosi trying to get a bigger share of money when Maestro TV is sold to Ivanishvili?

Or both?

TV station makes sensational news!!!!!!!!!!!

A man named Erosi owned a TV station called Rustavi2

Rustavi2 supported Misha Saakashvili and facilitated the Rose Revolution in 2004.

Rustavi2 continues to support Saakashvili and his political party.

Erosi later sold Rustavi2.

After selling Rustavi2, Erosi created a management company.

Maestro is a TV/radio station that supports the opposition party

Maestro’s owners hired Erosi’s management company to manage the broadcasting company.

Erosi hired Maestro’s owners to fill top-level jobs at the TV station.

Maestro got into financial trouble.

Erosi gave/loaned Maestro money, perhaps $4.5 million.

Billionaire and potential presidential candidate Ivanishvili wants to buy an opposition TV/radio station.

Ivanishvili probably wants to buy Maestro to function as his mouthpiece during his campaign for president .

The owners of Maestro probably want to sell to Ivanishvili.

The owners probably cut out Erosi from any deal with Ivanishvili.

Erosi says, wait, what about me? I put $4.5 million into Maestro and I paid the owners’ salaries.

Erosi fires owners from their top-level jobs at Maestro!

Erosi finds Maestro’s doors locked; he jumps fence and “invades” the TV station!

Erosi locks himself in a studio with the TV control room on the first floor!

TV station suspends TV broadcasting!

One of the station owners, Glonti, locks himself in a room on the second floor; fears eviction!

50 police arrive to prevent fight!

Journalists locked out of their TV station!

Standoff continues for second day!

TV operating under “emergency regime!”

All of Tbilisi waits as Erosi remains on first floor; Glonti remains on second floor.

Stay tuned!

Please send more ties to Misha

I think that Mikheil Saakashvili is getting more nervous every day about the upcoming elections. Then again, maybe it is just coincidence that Georgian police stopped a Cartu Bank vehicle owned by Bidzina Ivanishvili and then seized the cash (http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=24047). If Misha is not concerned about the upcoming elections, then he should be concerned about the negative publicity his party is gaining every time it blocks Ivanishvili’s path to become a candidate. Either way, the president is chewing on his ties, so please help by sending him some replacements. I think that Saakashvili should show the world that he wants Ivanishvili to run for office. Then Misha should campaign hard so that his political party maintains control of Parliament. Then he should refuse an offer to become Prime Minister (if such an offer is made). If he follows my advice, he’ll become a hero and gain acclaim as the “father of Georgian democracy.”

Ivanishvili—billionaire and possible candidate for president of Georgia

The 2012 campaign for president should be interesting enough to merit several blog posts. I’ll start by making three points about Bidzina Ivanishvili.

First, he is a billionaire philanthropist. According to Forbes, in 2011 he was worth $5.5 billion (http://www.forbes.com/profile/boris-ivanishvili/). To put that in context, the GDP of Georgia in 2010 was $12.8 billion, and the GDP per capita was $3,000 (http://www.gfmag.com/gdp-data-country-reports/269-georgia-gdp-country-report.html#axzz1b2CrtpR4).

So what does Ivanishvili do with his money? Students and faculty members at CSJMM say that he supports the arts in Georgia; in fact, he may have paid the salaries for theater, opera, philharmonic and other arts-oriented personnel for the past ten years. People at CSJMM also believe that Ivanishvili has paid for the renovations to all of the buildings where arts performances are held. He is also very generous with people in his hometown.  According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “In recent years, Ivanishvili has financed hundreds of charitable and small-business ventures in Georgia and transformed his native region of Sachkhere into an oasis of prosperity in Georgia’s desolate and economically moribund hinterland” (http://www.rferl.org/content/reclusive_georgian_billionaire_hopes_to_enter_politics/24356547.html).

Second, Ivanishvili wants to buy a television station. Georgia has three national TV stations and they all support Saakashvili’s government. Tbilisi residents can also watch two local stations, Maestro and Kavkasia, which generally support the opposition. Ivanishvili offered to pay 3 times the market value for any TV station and then 2 years later return the station to its original owner for the symbolic price of 1 lari. Ivanishvili then kicked a hornet’s nest when he implied that Maestro and Kavkasia are only pseudo opposition stations, and, therefore, they would not accept his offer. Stay tuned for news of whether Ivanishvili buys a TV station for his election campaign.

Three, Ivanishvili’s son, Uta, a pop/rap singer, created a campaign video for his father. On Friday Uta wrote on his Facebook page: “Today I finished writing a song ‘Georgian Dream’, which I dedicate to my father’s decision” to go into politics. The video is in Georgian, but it doesn’t need subtitles. I like it, but watch it and let me know your opinion.