Bidzina Ivanishivli

De Civitate Bidzinae


or the Georgian Principate

When leaving us, or to be more accurate, stepping down from the position of prime minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili offered some almost enigmatic words: "I am not going anywhere, I am here for a 20-year cycle." Upon hearing this, some far-sighted citizens immediately raised questions about what influence a private individual, who in reality is the patron of the ruling political team, would have on the political life of Georgia. They got the answer to this in mid-March from an interview of Bidzina Ivanishvili with Imedi TV channel.

The republican order of Ancient Rome fell apart during a period of at least 20 years. At the end of the day, all those defending the former order had either been killed or had passed away and the republic was replaced by an empire, i.e. power was placed in the hands of a single person. Octavian Augustus became the first Roman Emperor.

Augustus came to realize that the mechanisms of the republican administration were stable and viable; he thus chose not to destroy the system, but to merely subject it to his sole rule. In other words, he gained hold of the leadership of the system whilst popular assemblies were still convened, the Senate continued its legislative activity and magistrates ran the executive administration just as they did before. But while the former system rested on the distribution of power amongst the branches of government, in which no one individual could hold a position for more than a year, the Emperor took a collection of high positions for himself and held these until the end of his life: he was appointed the proconsul, i.e. supreme military commander; the Senate granted him the power of tribune, which gave him the power to veto the decisions of other magistrates; and he became a censor several times, which made it easy for him to get rid of undesirable people in the Senate. Augustus was also declared the princeps (first citizen) of the Senate. In Ancient Rome, the princeps was an exceptionally respected person, leading the list of senators and being the first to express his opinion during debates. If during the republic the title of princeps meant only an expression of respect towards the holder of the title, in the Roman Empire the situation changed: now the statements of Augustus were unchallengeable and senators had no other choice but to agree with them. At the same time, it was officially considered that Augustus, rather than having destroyed the republic, had in fact restored it in its purest form; it was believed that Augustus was only executing the will of the Senate and no one dared to say that, in reality, power belonged to the Emperor. Augustus found the status of princeps to be very useful and his successors also bore the title. The order established by Augustus was called the Principate.

Looking at modern Georgia, it contains signs of being both a republic and a principate. The executive branch, ministers and local self-government each continue to work, the parliament also works as hard as it can and power seems to be distributed. However, there is a single man who has a grip on all of this and, at the same time, is responsible for nothing: there is no instance in which he can be held accountable. Furthermore, Bidzina Ivanishvili himself embodies the highest point where the legislative and executive branches of Georgia come together. The head of parliament dares not disobey him, nor does the prime minister "need to discuss anything several times" with him, as the princeps himself reminded us. In such a system, the position of the president appears to be a natural addition. The president has some constitutional obligations and some possibilities, and it seems that his gradual realization of his legitimacy has raised his desires to try and implement his own power. For example, Giorgi Margvelashvili wanted to veto a law postponing the enactment of a procedure for interrogating witnesses only during court sittings. It does not matter whether he really wanted to do that or if this was just an attempt to show himself off as a democrat, the fact, as the first citizen has pointed out, is that after this issue was discussed with Ivanishvili, the president was dissuaded from using his power of veto. Ivanishvili has told us, the citizens of Georgia, with absolute clarity who the master of the country is. The Georgian princeps can himself veto that individual who has the power to veto laws. Ivanishvili is not only the first citizen, but also the supreme law. When the head of the Georgian state, who has been elected through a general ballot, conducts consultations with a private person and those consultations result in an undesirable result being imposed on the president – this is no longer a republic: this is the fruit of Bidzina Ivanishvili's citizenship – this is the Georgian Principate.

In his quest for power, Octavian Augustus murdered many. He mercilessly removed everyone who got in his way. But today, when evaluating his activities as the princeps, historians agree that Augustus stands among those rare politicians whom power made better. As regards the Georgian princeps – the previously secluded, silent philanthropist who sponsored the construction and repair of cathedrals, and assisted theatres and artists – readers can judge for themselves when he was at his best: when we had heard about him, but did not know him; when he was the prime minister, saying "I am a great democrat, loyal to principles, straightforward and clean;" or now – when he wants to be the director of the Georgian government, but in such a manner that no one dares to hold him responsible for anything or even argue with him...


Log in or Register