In an article published in The New York Times, a reporter Ellen Barry highlights the first week after the victory of the future Prime-Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s team in the parliamentary elections. “Internet.ge” offers you another fragment of the article invariably:
The New York Times: Mr. Ivanishvili’s first high-level government contacts were rocky, despite the efforts of prominent Washington lobbyists. When Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Georgia in June, he refused to meet her unless the meeting was one on one — treatment reserved for high-ranking officials — rather than alongside other opposition leaders whom he considered illegitimate. Each side felt snubbed, and a distinct chill set in through June and July.
Meanwhile, Western observers underestimated the effectiveness of Mr. Ivanishvili’s campaign. Polls followed by Westerners in Tbilisi suggested that Mr. Saakasvhili’s party was ahead by 20 points in early September — a lead too large to be wiped out by the release of videos showing prison abuse. When Tedo Japaridze, a veteran diplomat and Ivanishvili adviser, visited the State Department a week before the vote, American officials were focused on avoiding protests by Ivanishvili supporters, he said.
“They kept saying, ‘What will happen when you lose?’ ” Mr. Japaridze said. “I kept asking: ‘What will happen when we win? Are you prepared for that?’ But they didn’t believe it.”
Mr. Ivanishvili provides a contrast with Mr. Saakashvili, a cosmopolitan charmer who speaks fluent English and intuitively understands what the West expects. Mr. Japaridze described Mr. Ivanishvili as “immensely realistic and pragmatic” with the “basic instincts of a Georgian.”
With the arrival of a new American ambassador, Richard B. Norland, a month before the vote, Mr. Ivanishvili’s links with the United States government rebounded, and the two men often confer twice a day, aides say.
Mr. Ivanishvili has said he would preserve Georgia’s close ties with the United States and its bid to enter NATO, despite the risk of irritating Russia. His victory set off “a cascade of delegations” from the United States and Europe, Mr. Japaridze said.
“As I understand it, the Westerners now realize that this is the reality, but at the same time they don’t know what this reality is — I mean, Ivanishvili,” he said. “They are asking him questions.”
Some of these conversations are clearly not comfortable. After Mr. Ivanishvili recommended that Mr. Saakashvili resign, three American senators released a statementsaying they were “disappointed and troubled” by the remarks and by “unspecified threats of prosecutions.” By that time, Mr. Ivanishvili had retracted the remark.
Esben Emborg, the Danish consul in Tbilisi, said the episode was part of a “steep learning curve” Mr. Ivanishvili was scaling. The new leader, he noted, was emerging from “a completely secluded life, where he had no contact with anyone.”
“Maybe he has been guided to understand that he needs to be a politician now, he cannot just be a thug,” Mr. Emborg said. “It’s not a fistfight that you’ve won, it’s an election. There are 50 percent of the population that did not vote for you. Somebody told him: ‘Look, this is not the way the victor behaves. This comes across as a very small person.’ ”
Those discussions seem likely to recur over the coming weeks as a relatively inexperienced team takes charge. Mr. Ivanishvili ruffled more feathers with the publication last Thursday of an interview in New Times, a Russian magazine, in which he wondered why ethnic Armenians lived in Georgia when “their own homeland is next door,” a troubling remark in a country with a history of ethnic tensions.Mr. Ivanishvili then released a statement saying he had been quoted out of context and meant to praise the “special gift of the Armenians and the Jews to be citizens of the world and succeed everywhere they live.” And with that ended his first workweek as a national leader.
“He is a novice, and that has its good side and its bad side,” said Mr. de Waal, the Carnegie analyst. “The bad side is he is quite unpredictable and says some quite eccentric things. The good side is he is still learning and corrects himself. He is receptive to advice.”