Asked recently if he would move to impeach the president, Ivanishvili said he had no intention of doing so, but added that prosecutors should continue their work. ‘‘If the prosecutors open a case against top leaders of the country, I will not meddle in it or try to have it closed,’’ he said.
Saakashvili and his loyalists have denounced the investigations as political repression.
The United States and European Union, who had impressed upon Saakashvili the importance of holding a fair election and respecting the results, have expressed concerns about the arrests. Georgia’s new foreign minister met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Washington last week and offered reassurances that the arrests were not a political vendetta but about ‘‘the restoration of justice.’’
Ramaz Sakvarelidze, a Tbilisi-based political analyst, said that Ivanishvili has to respond to society’s demand that allegations of abuse by leading figures in Saakashvili’s administration be investigated. ‘‘Ivanishvili is a hostage of this situation,’’ the analyst said. ‘‘If they stop the arrests, the public won’t understand.’’
Public anger against Saakashvili was stoked by videos of prisoners in a Tbilisi jail being beaten and sodomized, which were broadcast on television less than two weeks before the Oct. 1 election.
The majority of Georgians seem to relish the new government’s moves against top figures in Saakashvili’s administration. When the president’s party tried to stage a protest in the capital against the arrest of the former defense minister, just a handful of people showed up.
Ivanishvili also has kept up pressure on the president by criticizing his lavish lifestyle and sumptuous residences.
From his own gleaming villa perched on a hill overlooking Tbilisi, Ivanishvili complains that a glass bridge Saakashvili built across the Kura River has spoiled his view. Ivanishvili once said that he'd pay to have the bridge destroyed and another one built, but then backed down when many residents said the money would be better spent elsewhere.
The prime minister’s Cabinet immediately cut funds for maintaining the presidential residences, forcing Saakashvili’s office to announce that it would switch off the illumination of the presidential palace starting in January. Ivanishvili also decided to stop providing the $55 million required to maintain presidential aircraft next year and to cut other expenses.
Ivanishvili said the money saved will go to support Georgia’s hospitals and schools.