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Georgian Billionaire Promises Closer EU, NATO Ties as Vote Nears

Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. Photographer: Vano Shlamov/AFP/Getty Images
Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. Photographer: Vano Shlamov/AFP/Getty Images

Feb. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili said the political coalition he’s formed to take on President Mikheil Saakashvili will win October’s parliamentary vote and promised closer ties with the European Union and NATO.

His movement, Georgian Dream, will “deepen integration with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization” and the 27-member EU, while guaranteeing the Black Sea nation’s security, Ivanishvili told reporters today at a presentation in the capital, Tbilisi.

Opposition politicians including coalition partner Irakli Alasania, Georgia’s former envoy to the United Nations, accuse Saakashvili of delaying NATO and EU integration by stifling democracy. The president, who has advocated membership of both alliances, led Georgia into a five-day war with Russia in 2008 over the breakaway republic of South Ossetia.

Saakashvili’s National Movement had 42 percent backing, while Ivanishvili’s party had 18 percent support, according to a December poll of 4,000 people by the International Republican Institute that had a margin of error of 1.5 percentage points. Forbes magazine put Ivanishvili’s wealth at $5.5 billion last March.

To contact the reporter on this story: Helena Bedwell in Tbilisi at hbedwell@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net

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