Georgian presidential candidate, ex-speaker of the parliament Nino Burjanadze told the Voice of Russia what will be the domestic and foreign policy of Georgia if she wins the elections, what are the features of the presidential campaign in the country and what were the main achievements and miscalculations of the Georgian Dream for the year her being in power.
Guest of the Voice of Russia - Nino Anzorovna Burjanadze, Georgian statesman and political figure, chairman of the Democratic Movement - United Georgia party, candidate for the presidency of Georgia.
- You are running for president of Georgia. After constitutional reform, it means significantly less than before. Why do you need this post in such a situation? How do you assess the gradual transfer of the center of gravity of political life to the government and parliament?
- I see that recently there has been a deliberate policy in Georgia, which, of course, is already spreading beyond its borders, which supposedly the presidency does not matter. Although few people read the Constitution of Georgia and very few people know that in fact the president has enough authority to conduct serious political activity and influence the political life of Georgia.
For example, the president is the supreme commander of the state. He has serious functions during the formation of the government - and the prime minister and the government can not be appointed and operate without the consent of the president. The president has very serious powers regarding the judicial system, as well as in many other areas.
It is also very important that the president is the only person elected by the people after the entry into force of the Constitution. Therefore, he has the highest legitimacy in the entire political elite. If we bear in mind the Georgian parliament, it has a rather low legitimacy, it will evaporate after Bidzina Ivanishvili leaves the political arena. People voted for Ivanishvili, and not for those political parties that are present in parliament.
Thus, a very clear picture remains when the president has a political weight that can influence very serious decisions in the state. It is hardly necessary to say that in all countries, and even more so in such as Georgia, the weight of a policy is much more important than any instructions written in the law.
I will give an example. Saakashvili now has the same functions under the Constitution as they were two years ago. But since he has lost the legitimacy and support of the people, now they are not putting him in anything. Although with the same functions two years ago, he was the most influential person in Georgia. Legitimacy, popular support, experience and weight of politics are very important.
The most important thing is that the president is the main figure in foreign relations of Georgia. Foreign policy will largely depend on the president. This is also a very important issue.
- As we know, your chances of winning are very real. How do you evaluate them yourself, and if this is second place, will you demand a second round of elections?
- I will demand whether or not it depends on whether the elections are fair and transparent or not. If today was absolutely fair and equitable electoral environment, in this case, I would have won in the first round. But now, in a sense, the administrative resource is used almost everywhere in all places.
I see that there is a real collusion between the representatives of the “United National Movement” and the “Georgian Dream”, the Prime Minister leads his candidate as a kid of preschool age, and even blackmails the people, that if he has less than 60 percent, Ivanishvili will work with less enthusiasm.
In addition, people are afraid of the fact that if it is not Margvelashvili who wins, then there is a chance to win against Bakradze, although this is generally nonsense and has no basis. If all this had not happened, if I had been put more or less in the same situation as the powerful candidates (both Margvelashvili and Bakradze), I would have won in the first round.
But, considering all this, I say that 100-percent will be the second round, and in this tour we will be Margvelashvili and me. Bakradze has no chance to take second place, although some representatives of the West and some representatives of the “Georgian Dream” are trying very hard for the people to get used to the idea of second place of “nationals”. This can not be in nature, because Bakradze does not have 12 percent of the rating, this is the maximum. If someone tries to do it artificially, then it will cause the most disastrous consequences.
The second round does not scare me. Unlike our dear male politicians, I am not afraid of either the first or the second round. And I'm not afraid of debate. By the way, I saw information in the news that Burjanadze refused to participate in the debate. This is de facto correct, but I want to explain to the Voice of Russia audience why I refused to debate.
I still demand a debate with the main candidate, with Mr. Margvelashvili. What did our television channel 1TV do with IFES (International Foundation for Election Systems)? They artificially divided the candidates, not taking into account neither their ratings nor their weight. They simply tied the candidates to the qualifications of their parties.
Margvelashvili, Bakradze and two other candidates were put in a debate together, and I was transferred on the second day with presidential candidates whose names many in Georgia do not know. It was a parody of the debate, and, naturally, I refused such a debate. I am ready even now to debate with Mr. Margvelashvili on any channel, in any format, but, unfortunately, he is afraid. Everyone understands that debating with me is not easy.
- For the first time, Georgia faces a political situation when there is no strong presidential center. How will the political system develop?
- It depends on who will be president. If there is an experienced, authoritative and serious politician, the presidential center will be serious. There will be an illusory president whom we are now being offered - there will be an empty space.
We heard what statement Mr. Ivanishvili made on the air, without prior consultation, as he himself said. He said that if there is a second round, he will advise Mr. Margvelashvili to withdraw the nominee. Literally in an hour and a half, in automatic mode, Margvelashvili repeated the exact same thing. With all due respect to him as a person, as a presidential candidate or as a political figure, he is an absolute puppet who does not even ask the question "why?"
Georgia is still a strange place where things are happening that shock, in my opinion, the entire political world. For example, I have never and never heard that, firstly, the Prime Minister demanded that his candidate necessarily have 60 percent, and if there is 59,5, it will be a disaster. I did not hear anyone say that he must win in the first round, otherwise everything will collapse. Thirdly, what is the most incomprehensible, they say that if there is a second round, we supposedly leave the elections. Talking about a serious policy from the "Georgian Dream" is impossible.
- The last year was marked by the confrontation between the “United National Movement” and the “Georgian Dream”, which a year ago almost equally divided the sympathies of the voters. How and why has this situation changed? Who are your supporters now?
- I'll fix you. This is not a year of confrontation between the “Georgian Dream” and the “United National Movement”, but a year of their cooperation. That is why the number of my supporters is growing. “Georgian Dream” has deceived the expectations of all those people who voted for it. We all helped the “Georgian Dream”, voted for it and demanded one thing - the restoration of justice.
Instead, we saw collusion, collaboration. We saw that the “Georgian Dream” with its absolute political impotence at best, and at worst with collusion, revived the “United National Movement”, which the Georgian people had sent to a political grave. The inaction of the “Georgian Dream” allowed the “nationals” to get out of this grave and begin to “launder” their image. This we can not forgive "Georgian Dream". This is a betrayal of the people and a very bad symptom for Georgia.
If the “Georgian Dream” thinks that if the “nationals” return to power, they will nurse them as the “Georgian Dream” - with the “nationals”, they are deeply mistaken. The “nationals” will not cooperate with anyone, they will realize that, as Mr. Givi Targamadze said, the only mistake of the “nationalists” is that they did not finish off the oppositionists to the end. This is the mistake they will correct.
I think that at this stage the “Georgian Dream” and the “Nationals” are one and the same. There is a conspiracy between them, and, in their opinion, Burdzhanadze should by no means get out. Of course, at one time, the “nationals” wanted to take second place, but they are quite pragmatic. Now they have seen that they have no such chance.
On the ground, a command was given to the "nationals" until a certain hour not to come to the polls, so that the commissions could calculate what and how. If the “nationals” see that Mr. Margvelashvili wins in the first round, in this case they will vote for Bakradze to get the maximum possible number of votes. If there is a second round (and they know that in the second round I will win by 100 percent), then they will give Margvelashvili all the votes, even to the detriment of Mr. Bakradze, if only Burjanadze would not pass.
But this does not frighten me either, because I know that we have so many supporters. No one can boast of such a number of people in meetings with candidates like mine. This was never in Georgia during the election campaign - so many people came out, and then not always, only during protest actions. In Batumi, there were up to 10 thousands of people, in Zugdidi - 6-7 thousands of people. This is a huge number of people. Moreover, in Zugdidi people stood in the pouring rain for an hour, without leaving the square, even after my speech. I went down to them in the rain to talk.
This suggests that we have tremendous support. Now I am touring Georgia for the second time. During this time I met with 150-170 by thousands of people, and I know that we have a lot of support, we will try to protect our voices.
- From your statements it is known that first of all, having come to power, you are going to plant Mikhail Saakashvili. Is it true? It is often said that the arrests of former leaders have become the main content of the work of the “Georgian Dream” for this year, and nothing more has been done. How to avoid repeating this error?
- First, there is nothing to repeat. “Georgian Dream” didn’t imprison anybody - just two were planted. By her incompetence, she ensured that the main criminals after Saakashvili Merabishvili and Akhalaya became almost political prisoners. The Georgian Dream, the prosecutor’s office and the relevant authorities failed to put on the table normal evidence of the guilt of these people who killed, tortured, and raped — perhaps not personally, but they created this system.
As for my first actions, I run for president, not for attorney generals. I will create all the conditions (this will be the result of real political will) in order for Georgia to undergo objective investigations of all crimes that were committed during the administration of the United National Movement. I will create free justice in Georgia. In this case, an objective investigation of crimes, including August 2008, will lead Saakashvili to the dock. I will not do it personally, but objective justice.
- In your opinion, what mistakes did the power of Saakashvili make? Indeed, at the beginning of the Rose Revolution, it seemed to many that you and Mikhail Saakashvili are one team. Are you ready to remember the old sympathies and invite someone from the "nationals" to the team? What do you think is the future of the Georgian Dream coalition?
“The Georgian Dream” will fall apart as soon as Ivanishvili leaves politics. I think that Mr. Ivanishvili has an illusion that he will be able to preserve the unity of this team, having left politics. But he does not know Georgian politics and politicians badly. These are not very grateful people, and after he left very few people remember that he pulled them out of the political grave. All the people he gathered around him were without a political future. He should not expect any special thanks from them. These people will start looking for their own place without Ivanishvili, as soon as there is no political power in his hands. For a while he can keep it if he continues to spend money on their binding, but no more.
As for Saakashvili’s “mistakes,” in his case I’m not talking about mistakes (every authority and every person in power makes mistakes, no one is immune from it, including me), I’m talking about crimes. These are different things. Mistakes, even the worst, can be forgiven if a person saw his mistake, if his act was really a mistake, and not a deliberate act. If a person or political force repented of an error, you need to forgive. But we do not see this in the actions of the “nationals”.
We are not talking about their mistakes, but about crimes. I'm talking about the crimes of 2008 of the year, about the high-profile murders that took place and have not yet been investigated, about tens of thousands of illegally convicted, tens of thousands of people from whom the nationalist leaders illegally took away the property and redistributed it. We are talking about torture and rape in prisons. These are not mistakes - people have to pay for these crimes.
Both the “nationals” and partly the “Georgian Dream” (I'm not even talking about some representatives of the West) constantly teach us how to live. They say that there is no need for revenge, persecution and revenge. Of course, no need to pursue or revenge. But the restoration of justice is one thing, and revenge and political revenge is another. They have nothing to do with each other. And if we are ever in Georgia not ending up with the “syndrome of impunity,” we will always spin in a vicious circle in which we have been in the last 20 years.
A new government comes, makes promises, but then they fade into the background, there is a redistribution of shares in business, money laundering, a high level of corruption. People see that under the previous government a person stole 10-20 million, at best, returned 1 million and continued to live happily ever after with the remaining money. This will never end unless Georgia takes the path of civilized states, where everyone is equal before the law — the president, the prime minister, the chairman of parliament, the police chief, or an ordinary citizen.
I want to ensure that all people know that we are all equal before the law and that people have nothing to fear if they are clean before the law. If a person is guilty, he will be punished; if a person is not guilty, all state and all state power will rise to his defense, and no one will touch him. This will enable us to develop the country normally, pursue both foreign and domestic policies, develop the economy, and equip the state.
It is very significant that at the household level, people are well aware of this. People who meet with me and say that it is very difficult for them, that they don’t want to wake up in the morning, they immediately add: “Restore justice, we will suffer”. Where justice is, there is well-being. Almost every Georgian understands this formula of a normal state. I will seek the implementation of a simple formula: "justice and prosperity for my country."
- They say that Mikhail Saakashvili completely eradicated corruption. Is it true?
- You can drive very close and see what kind of houses built there over the past few years. Anyone there will tell you who owns these houses. They belong to those ministers or those political figures about whom Saakashvili said at the beginning of his career that they, they say, have a two-room apartment.
In general, Saakashvili is a brilliant PR man, and, I think, he will enter history PR of the XX century as one of the most brilliant PR people who built such "Potemkin villages" that did not work for Potemkin himself. You can see the conclusion of the US State Department on Georgia, which is not particularly critical towards our country. Both the 2010 report of the year and the 2011 report of the year say that there is concern about the high level of elite corruption.
What corruption has been eradicated in Georgia? In principle, from a legal point of view, it is not even corruption, but simply a bribe. For example, the police really do not take bribes. But it was not corruption. When a traffic cop or patrol stops you and takes three or ten lari from you, this is not corruption, this is a bribe. Corruption is when a minister takes several hundred thousand or millions for some kind of transaction that is carried out at the highest level.
Yes, at low and medium levels, bribery in Georgia was eradicated, which is also good. But all this was replaced by elite corruption. I was in the village of Khaishi and could not believe my eyes when the guy from this village (he is a lawyer who is now helping us) showed me the documents. The whole village is sold - handed over to one Indian company. The whole village - along with the road, with pastures, forests around and private houses and courtyards of people who still live there. She sold for a symbolic price. And you think it's just like that?
Naturally, all such cases should be investigated. Then people will see what really happened in Georgia. You can walk along David Aghmashenebeli Avenue, which looks very nice outside (this is the former Plekhanov street, it was one of the most beautiful streets of Tbilisi). You can go into any of the entrances or go around the corner of the facade, and you will see the real face of Georgian democracy and Georgian statehood in the times of Saakashvili, when the facade is really wonderful and beautiful, but behind the facade are dilapidated houses.
- Are mass protests and unrest in connection with the elections possible?
- I hope that this will not happen. I hope that we will be able to activate our citizens so that they take the most active part in the elections. You know perfectly well that the more active the citizens, the harder it is to falsify the results. Quite recently the stunning figures of the Central Election Commission were published (although this was not a surprise for me) - 3 million 500 thousand people are on the voters list. This is absolute nonsense, because any person in Georgia who is at least somehow versed in numbers and in reality will say that there are no more 2,5 million voters in Georgia.
Hundreds of thousands, if not more than a million, are in Russia, in Greece, in Turkey, in other European countries, in the USA, in Ukraine. But all these people are on the lists. And “Georgian Dream” did nothing to bring these lists to reality, although at one time they very strongly demanded that the Saakashvili regime change the lists. But the Georgian Dream itself did not do that.
They also insistently demanded that Georgian citizens living in Russia have the right to vote and vote during parliamentary elections. But for some reason this was completely forgotten during the presidential election. They didn’t do anything to open plots in the Russian Federation, but even went against any proposal that could enable our fellow citizens in Russia to vote for the presidential candidate.
Now outwardly, the situation is much better off than before. Of course, one cannot compare the electoral environment with the one that was before. A year ago, we were beaten, cursed, and, one might say, selective activity was life threatening. Now this is not. Indeed, no one beats, arrests or puts drugs in their pockets or weaponbut all the other mechanisms, already under the beautiful facade of the improvement of the electoral environment, act the same as before.
- What has changed with the arrival of Ivanishvili? Why is he leaving? How, in your opinion, will his admission to politics be shaped?
- There is one very important change: there is no terror in the country that was. Recently, Mr. Ivanishvili said that "Burjanadze does not criticize me." But in Georgian it was said as if I did not criticize, because I can not. I replied that I did not criticize, not because I could not, but because I did not want to.
I appreciate what he did last year on October 1. Although October 1 would not be without 26 May, that's for sure. Nevertheless, I appreciate that he decided to come to politics, and, thanks to his actions, we all together were able to remove Saakashvili’s regime from power without bloodshed. Although there are things for which I criticize Ivanishvili, including on the basis of all that I have already said.
The fact that there is no longer any terror in the country, that people are not afraid to speak and do not whisper almost in the baths at the pouring water, so that someone does not hear, is the credit of Ivanishvili and the team that he led.
Why is he leaving? At one of the meetings with voters in Gori, we discussed that Georgia is a strange people: we choose people who don’t want to leave the post at all, cling to the chair, or people we can’t keep in that chair at least some time . We rush from one extreme to another.
The fact that Bidzina Ivanishvili does not consider it possible to remain in power for a long time is right, well. When a person has 5-7 billions and he comes to power, in any country, and even more so in a small country like Georgia, this is a problem for political reality. The fact that Bizina decided not to cling to the chair is very important. But the fact that he leaves so quickly will be a serious problem for political reality, especially for his team, which will fall apart into small pieces.
- As for Margvelashvili, will he pull the presidency without Ivanishvili?
- Margvelashvili is not a bad person, not a bad “guy,” as he is called in Georgia. But, as they say in Russia, a good guy is not a profession. We always had a very good relationship with him. As a person, I respect him, I can only say positive things about him. He is an educated person, but completely different from the type that is needed at least for a minimum standard policy.
It is absolutely possible that he will be independent. Firstly, he does not even deny this. When asked, they say why you think that you will be elected, he answers not in the style of "I know it, I will do it, I know how to do it differently." He says: “Ivanishvili appointed me. Ivanishvili believed me, and the Georgian people should believe me. I will win because Mr. Ivanishvili stands behind me.” This not normal. If you ask me, I find it offensive. I would never have agreed to such a role, even for the sake of the presidency.
- In case of victory, what will the foreign policy of Georgia be directed to? Are you going to improve relations with Russia? Do you have a prescription?
- Yes there is. Of course, I am going to improve relations with Russia. For me, it will be very important to work on the foreign policy arena in order to strengthen the security and independence of Georgia. For me it will be very important to resolve existing problems. Unresolved relations with Russia pose a real threat to the stability and normal development of the state.
In my program it is clearly and directly written that for us one of the main priorities is the settlement, the improvement of relations with Russia. Although, naturally, I do not think that we should do this to the detriment of our friendly relations with other countries. I do not think that we are faced with a choice that some journalists in Georgia deliberately emphasize: cooperation with the West or improving relations with Russia.
You understand perfectly well that so serious politicians do not think at all, and questions are not asked like that. Of course, we will have good, deep relations with the West. But we will definitely move in the direction that Russian-Georgian relations will break the deadlock, we will look for an opportunity to deepen our cooperation on a mutually beneficial basis.
It's complicated. I have no illusions that this can be done very quickly. I can tell from the experience of my meetings with the current President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin - I met him when I was still in power, then Vladimir Putin was the president of Russia during his first term, then I met him when he was the prime minister of Russia, I was in opposition.
We discussed almost all the "sores" that exist in Russian-Georgian relations. I can not say that our opinions completely coincide, it would even be strange. But I saw a desire to understand, a desire to penetrate into our position on Russian-Georgian problems, and a desire to find a way out of the impasse in which we are. I can say with confidence that I will be able to conduct at least difficult, but normal negotiations with Russia, which will necessarily lead to positive results.
- I can not touch on one of the sick issues - the question of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Is it possible, in your opinion, a peaceful settlement of this conflict? What will happen to the European orientation of the country?
- With the European orientation, nothing special will happen. European orientation as it is, and will remain. It seems to me that both Georgia and Russia have always aspired to Europe and always considered themselves to be part of European culture and civilization. I think that we should get all the good things that we can have from good and deep relations with Europe. Probably, Russia also thinks so.
As for Abkhazia and South Ossetia, these are really the most sensitive issues. When our patriarch was in Russia, I know that he told Mr. Putin that Abkhazia and Ossetia are two open wounds on the body of Georgia. I believe that there is an opportunity to improve relations, because in the history of our peoples there are centuries of good relations, only in recent years there have been tragic incidents that led to this situation.
I am confident that we should conduct a direct dialogue with the Abkhaz and Ossetians. I will definitely lead him. It is necessary to restore trust between our peoples and the ties that have always existed. We will be able to resolve these problems if Russia plays at least a neutral role, and even more so if it decides to play a positive role in resolving these conflicts.
I read that Putin was nominated for a Nobel Prize. I came across materials in which some political analyst or expert said that if Russia had played a positive role in settling Georgia’s relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, if these conflicts had been exhausted, perhaps Russia and its leader would have received the Nobel premium.
If Russia played a peacekeeping role in resolving these conflicts, this would be a major breakthrough. But the final word here is for Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia - for Georgians and Abkhazians, for Georgians and Ossetians. First of all, we ourselves must agree. I have an excellent opinion from very many Georgian politicians who consider the Abkhaz and Ossetian "puppet" of Russia. I do not think so. I saw more than one decision, for example, from the Abkhaz side; they did not always unambiguously respond to the decisions of Russia.
I think that both the Abkhaz and the Ossetians will first of all proceed from the interest of their own peoples, and we Georgians should show them that in the interests of their peoples our unity and the settlement of the conflict. And we must show Russia that it is in its interests to have good and good neighborly relations with a single, and not with a fragmented and hostile or half-hostile Georgia.
- Is it possible to restore diplomatic relations between Russia and Georgia without resolving this issue?
- It will be difficult, but the dynamics of the negotiation process will show. If the dynamics is very fast and positive, then it will be possible to talk about what is not even thinking now. We need a breakthrough, and after it we can talk about many things. But with or without diplomatic relations, we must conduct a full-scale dialogue and negotiation process with Russia at the highest level, and not at the level of deputy ministers or special representatives, I am absolutely sure of that.
- You are considered a pro-Russian politician. Do you think it will not prevent the election?
- These clichés are no longer working, especially among the population. What does the pro-Russian politician mean? If a pro-Russian politician is a person who says that he wants to have normal relations with Russia, let him be called as they like. But I am the person for whom the interests of Georgia are the most important. It is in the interests of my state to have normal relations with Russia, not to fight with it, and not to have existing difficulties.
People who have even more opportunities to watch TV channels and listen to politicians make very correct assessments. All those who support me, and this is a very large number of people, consider me not a pro-Russian, but a pro-Georgian politician, for whom the interests of his state are most important.
Honestly, I absolutely do not care what they call me. They called me a "traitor" because I came to Moscow, shook hands with Putin and negotiated with him, they called me "the fifth column", "the pro-Russian politician." The latter is the most civilized expression of all those with which I was "decorated" by Saakashvili and his team, and sometimes even those people from the "Georgian Dream".
But I do not care. I am a politician, I am a patriot of my country. I'm not out of fear. The most important thing for me is that they will talk about me in years through 20. So that only good things are said about me, I have been caring for a long time, from the day when I started political activities. What labels I will stick, I absolutely do not care.
- Is it difficult to be a woman in Georgian politics?
- I do not know if it is difficult for women in politics in other countries. In politics it is generally difficult, because those principles that I adhere to so far, oddly enough, make life very difficult in general, and even more so in politics. For example, I believe that a person should be responsible for his words and deeds. He should not lie, especially looking straight into his eyes. I think that it is necessary to be as decent as possible, and this is in life, and especially in politics, difficult. I am not enthusiastic about the methods of work and actions used by Georgian male politicians. But nothing, coping.
- What, besides politics, does Nino Burjanadze?
- Now nothing, because there is no time physically. I leave home sometimes on 8 in the morning, sometimes a little sooner or later, and return home to 3 at night. Honestly, I don’t even remember when I last had a normal dinner.
When I have the time and opportunity to bring my schedule at least a little closer to the lives of normal people, I like to read, I really love the theater, and sometimes I miss Moscow theaters when I see interesting premieres there. I like classical music very much, I ski in winter. I love flowers, dogs, sometimes I like to tinker in the kitchen, cook something sweet, tasty. But, as you understand, very little time remains for all this.