Another one for the billionaires

As expected, Giorgi Margvelashvili, the candidate of the ruling Golden Dream party, won a clear victory in Georgia’s presidential election on Sunday. (See my preview here.) Margvelashvili easily avoided any need for a runoff, winning about two-thirds of the vote. According to the Guardian’s report, his margin was so large that his main opponent, David Bakradze, conceded defeat just on the basis of the exit polls.

Yesterday afternoon, writing about the Czech election, I noted the way that recent elections (especially in Europe) have seen something of a flight “to novel and populist parties,” as voters protest against economic troubles and official incompetence. As you might expect, unconventional parties tend to be created or led by unconventional people. Beppe Grillo, of Italy’s 5-Star Movement, is a professional comedian; Vitali Klitschko, of UDAR in Ukraine, is a champion boxer.

But the most common sort of vanity politician is the wealthy businessperson. Examples include ANO’s Andrej Babiš in the Czech Republic, Frank Stronach of the eponymous Team Stronach in Austria, Janusz Palikot in Poland, and of course Australia’s own Clive Palmer.

Georgia also belongs on the list: not Margvelashvili himself, but the leader of his party, prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili. Described as the richest man in Georgia, Ivanishvili is supposed to be worth about $5.5 billion, and current Georgian politics has been shaped by the feud between him and outgoing president Mikheil Saakashvili.

Ivanishvili has been prime minister since Golden Dream’s election victory in October last year, but after only a year in the job he has announced he will be retiring within the next two months: “When I entered politics I said that I would stay for two or three years, accomplish my set goals and leave. Well, it took me less than three years. I put the country on the right path and no-one can reverse this process.”

It’s a rare billionaire who finds success as easy in politics as in business, but it’s also a rare politician who knows not to stay around too long.


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