By Ria Novosti
Bidzina Ivanishvili, a Georgian-born billionaire living in Russia, said he was ready to sell his businesses in Russia and give away his Russian and French passports in order to challenge the incumbent Georgian president in elections next year.
“Approximately one-third of my fortune is Russian-based, and to avoid any questions from the public, I will sell my business in Russia before the 2012 elections and give away my Russian and French passports,” he said in a statement.
Ivanishvili, who is ranked 25th by Forbes in its list of Russian businessmen with an estimated fortune of $5.5 billion, said that he had never sought a political career. However, the billionaire said, he had no other choice after Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili established a “total monopoly” over the country’s political life.
“I have decided to set up a political party and take part in the 2012 parliamentary elections due to the total monopoly by Mikheil Saakashvili and the recently-made constitutional amendments which demonstrated Saakashvili’s desire to stay in power regardless of all constitutional terms,” Ivanishvili’s statement reads.
“I have always denied the possibility of entering the political arena and thought that I can do more as an ordinary citizen, free of any additional responsibilities, but today’s political situation means that I have no choice,” he said.
The 56-year-old businessman acknowledged that his financial support for the opposition since the “falsified” elections in 2008 had been insufficient to “streamline the political process and achieve the intended result in the country.”
“That’s why I decided that over a period of approximately two or three years I should coordinate the political process on my own, in person,” he said.
He said he would set up a political party uniting “healthy” political forces aimed at achieving an absolute majority in 2012 parliamentary elections and was ready to assume the post of prime minister or parliamentary speaker.