Now that the interviews are taking place in front of dozens of television cameras, his confusion that a journalist's purpose actually might be to ask him difficult questions rather than make him look good is more easily visible. At his Tuesday news conference, responding to a perfectly reasonable question from a Bloomberg reporter about whether the so-called "thieves-in-law" may come back to Georgia now that he is in power, Ivanishvili lost his cool. "Who asked you to ask that question? Saakashvili? Bokeria?" he snapped, referring to the president and one of his key advisors, Giga Bokeria. "It is not a valid question. I'm not answering it."
Despite the plethora of advisors who surround him, he also seems to be poorly briefed and is already making statements inconsistent with the few interviews he has given. When asked on Tuesday how much of his fortune he had spent on his campaign, he said: "About $2 million. I'm not sure, exactly. Between $1 million and $3 million." In a July interview he said he had already spent up to $10 million.
His sense of political timing also leaves something to be desired. In his rambling introduction he made the same point four times and spoke at length about how he would prosecute a single judge who had been responsible for what he called unlawful verdicts against the opposition. He stated that if Saakashvili could work with the opposition, then a cooperative relationship could be achieved. Nearly two hours into the news conference, however, Ivanishvili suddenly dropped a bombshell, demanding that Saakashvili resign, instead of seeing out the final year of his presidency. "The only right thing for him to do now is to take his pen and resign," Ivanishvili said. "This would be good for himself and for his future." Ivanishvili appeared to have had the thought on the spot, and the statement immediately caused alarm among the international community, especially after Saakashvili's surprisingly magnanimous concession speech. "This call is totally unacceptable and is a direct attack against democracy and the rule of law," said a statement from Wilfried Martens, president of the European People's Party, which is affiliated with Saakashvili's United National Movement. It was only on the thorny issue of relations with Russia that Ivanishvili sounded assured, insisting that he would seek to bolster trade and cultural ties with Georgia's overbearing northern neighbor, but at the same time vowing not to err at all from Saakashvili's course of NATO and EU integration.
The general consensus at the moment is that this election campaign, despite being spiteful and vitriolic, has ended up as a tremendous advertisement for Georgian democracy. There are not many countries in this region where a powerful sitting president could be so undermined at the ballot box. But Georgian politics, after all, has a long history of enthusiastic celebration of a messiah figure before a swift process of disillusionment kicks in. Recently, we have been inundated with headlines and op-eds referencing pruned or wilted roses (the most recent: "Petals Drop Off the Rose Revolution").
The test for Ivanishvili will be keeping his newly victorious coalition -- which ranges from liberals to ultranationalists -- together, now that they are no longer fighting a common enemy. How soon before we see the first "Georgian Dream Turns to Nightmare" headline? Not long, unless Ivanishvili develops a new set of political skills quickly.