COMMENTARY: No honeymoon period for Ivanishvili’s government

No soft touch. Bidhzina Ivanishvili is a shrewd self-made man.

Most new governments enjoy a brief honeymoon period at the start of their administration: a time when they can bask in the glory of their victory and a period of grace that the public that elected them allows them before they start demanding that they deliver on their electoral promises. It has now become clear that the government of Bidhzina Ivanishvili in Georgia, which was confirmed by parliament on 25 October, is not going to have such a luxury, as it starts to come to terms with a wide range of problems that they inherited from the previous government.

At the same time as it walks the delicate tightrope of political co-habitation, the new Georgian government is facing challenges in a number of fields, ranging from a tense situation in the prisons , to strike action in some key industries, to having to deal with a financial gap in the budget. The government had not even been properly approved by parliament when a number of problems started emerging, none so far resulting from anything of its own doing. The victory of the Georgian Dream coalition in the 1 October elections raised expectations amongst vast sections of the Georgian population.

But the problems of the last days are not a result of disappointment. It is far too early for that. Some observers have pointed a finger at renegade elements within the old regime, and others even went so far as to blame president Saakashvili himself of overtly working with the new government, whilst covertly trying to undermine it. If that is the case this is very short sighted because it is also far too early for that too. Voters tend to understand that a new government needs some time to settle in, and anything happening in the first few weeks is unlikely to have lasting impact.

But the challenges of the last few days are important because they test the resolve of the government: its ability to respond firmly but fairly in a timely fashion, to problems as they emerge; and the unity of the new government. So far there are no signs that the Coalition is failing on any of these accounts, but it is early days.

There is also in this however one other factor that needs to be taken into account. The man who led the Georgian Dream coalition to its electoral success a few weeks ago is no soft touch. Bidhzina Ivanishvili is a self made man who achieved success in both business and politics, not thanks to luck or patronage but one suspects mainly on the basis of his shrewdness and on his ability to listen carefully before jumping to conclusions, an unusual virtue in many politicians, especially in Georgia. Rocking the boat at this stage will not undermine Ivanishvili.

But there are serious problems ahead, particular in the economic sphere. The honey moon period may have been over before it started, but the crucial point will be in a year or so time when Georgians start asking themselves if they are better off than before, Ivanishvili therefore is unlikely to be distracted. He needs to keep his eye on the ball and deliver to the Georgian people in those areas where it really matters.

This commentary was compiled by the editorial team of CEW