Shalva Natelashvili: “We are the only opposition force in Georgia”

Interviewed by Georgi Kalatozishvili, Tbilisi

“Vestnik Kavkaza” continues to acquaint readers with the participants in the presidential elections in Georgia. One of the most popular candidates for the post of head of state is the permanent head of the Labor Party, veteran of Georgian politics Shalva Natelashvili. He firmly opposes both main figures in the political scene, President Saakashvili and Prime Minister Ivanishvili. The leader of the Labour Party cannot be called a political outcast: even though the Labor Party is not represented in the Parliament, people always listen to him, because the consistency of the party in defending its values is really a matter of respect.

 – Mr. Natelashvili, why did you decide to participate in the presidential elections, thereby throwing a challenge to candidates who are called “essential” – George Margvelashvily, David Bakradze and Nino Burjanadze?

– My decision to participate in the elections is not due to abnormal thoughts on the presidency. I have been in politics for 20 years, and only once did I run as a candidate for the top post. It was in January 2008, when the Central Electoral Commission “wrote” me something about 7.5%. I am currently standing as a candidate for a second time.

I think it’s the right decision. We are the only opposition force in Georgia which conducts its strategy without any hesitation: against the authorities, against corruption, the abuse and offence of traditional national values; for free business and a free judiciary; against censorship and for freedom of the media. The Labour Party has held this line since 1995. During this time, such figures as Eduard Shevardnadze and Mikhail Saakashvili became politically dead, and now the third one – Ivanishvili – is in line. All of them have been conducting a criminal policy.

The only political force in the country ready to say ” we are ready to take power and lead the country in the right direction” is the Labor Party.

– What are the main provisions of your program, what is the basis for such a statement? Is there a slogan that would express its essence?

– There is no particular slogan yet, but that’s not a problem – we can invent it. It is much more interesting what to do after my election as president. Under the new constitution, the powers of the head of state will no longer be the ones that they are now, but they are not so small. The President is the Head of State, the supreme representative in external and internal relations, the President signs laws and other acts, he has the right to veto any law, he is the supreme commander, he appoints the Chief of Staff, and so on.

As for Parliament, I will be the opposition to the legislative body. I will try to make the parliament dissolve in a peaceful and democratic way and hold new parliamentary elections for a national unity government, which would present the main political forces. It will be an anti-crisis government with a bias in favor of professionals. Politicians can sit in the parliament and pass laws defining the external and internal guidelines for the development of the country. It is not enough to become president. It is necessary to strengthen the power and conduct deep government reform.

– Do you plan to nationalize private property?

– Leftist parties today are in power in almost all European countries. In France, Hollande was elected president, and he is a Socialist. But no nationalization happened. We’re not talking about nationalization, only about social justice, and we intend to raise taxes for the rich. In this we are like the European Socialists, including Hollande: the rich should pay more. Is it possible that a billionaire and unemployed, hungry people pay the same price for electricity, for gas and so on? This is not fair.

– You often criticize the policy of “cohabitation” and say that among the political forces of Saakashvili and Ivanishvili there is no significant difference. How would you substantiate your position?

– “Cohabitation” is a deception of the people! It’s an indulgence for sins committed by Saakashvili, and he committed them in the past years with the help and support of Ivanishvili. The repressive system that existed in the country, like the very “Rose Revolution”, was funded out of the pocket of Ivanishvili. He was the main sponsor of the regime and the backstage manager of the foreign and domestic policies of President Saakashvili.

Ivanishvili personally decided to get into politics only after he realized that Saakashvili was leaving. Ivanishvili knew that Mishiko was warned two or three times at the White House: “You must give up power.” So he decided to prevent, God forbid, the Labor Party from coming to power. So they are not much different: the policies, style, staff, team – all are the same. All the leaders of the “Rose Revolution” that helped Saakashvili to seize power in 2003 are now in Ivanishvili’s circle.

– What is needed to do so that the upcoming October 27 presidential election is held fairly and without violations?

– Saakashvili and Shevardnadze created a machine of rigged elections over decades. Thus, they held on to power. What do we have? You vote for Paul, and your vote goes to Peter! This machine is still in force: the same code, the same electoral commission in which Ivanishvili and Saakashvili hold the majority. My main competitor – George Margvelashvily – has $7 billion; the total capital of the Prime Minister is working for him. But we do not give up and demand to make changes to the Code. For example, we insist that participation in the elections for the citizens of Georgia should be an obligation, not only a right. The elections are held every 4-5 years. If a citizen does not come and does not participate, then he does not love his country and does not respect its citizens. The rate of compulsory voting is widespread in Europe. In France and Austria there are fines for non-participation, while in Greece and Turkey there is imprisonment. In the end, we, Georgians, should take responsibility for the fate of the country, or we’ll lose our homeland. Europe must make Ivanishvili adopt these standards, especially since he is a citizen of France.

– Whom do you consider as your possible competitor and ally in the event of a second round of the presidential election?

– I have already demanded from those who also call themselves the opposition to withdraw their candidacies in my favor before the first round. Some have decided to participate not to win the election but only in order to bargain with Ivanishvili on the terms of removing their nominations and then to hunt for his money. We cannot give them any money, but we demand respect for the will of the people. People will not get money from us, but they will gain a free and happy homeland. We are ready to invite them into our coalition government. So we can win without a second round if the opposition stops immorally bargaining the fate of the motherland with a billionaire.

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