‘We cannot allow Ukraine to collapse’ | Interview with Mikheil Saakashvili
Georgian authorities say that if the ex-president returns to his homeland after the October parliamentary elections, he will be arrested
Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili intends to become Prime Minister of the country if his United National Movement party wins the Georgian parliamentary elections in October. At the same time, almost all political parties in Georgia, including “European Georgia”, which was formed by members of Saakashvili’s team, announced that they would not support his candidacy for this post if faced with such a choice..
“The attitude of Mikhail Saakashvili to the proportional electoral system and the coalition government is an indicator that he wants to return to the past. Accordingly, there are doubts that he does not seek one-man rule. At the same time, the country needs decisive changes and progress, and not a return back “, – said Giga Bokeria, one of the leaders of “European Georgia”, ex-head of the Security Council under the Saakashvili government.
Most of the Georgian oppositionists believe that by openly joining the election campaign, Saakashvili is playing into the hands of the ruling Georgian Dream party, which, according to opponents, has been mobilizing the electorate in its favor for years through antagonism towards Saakashvili, which still exists among a certain number of Georgian citizens.
It is noteworthy that according to the results of a study conducted in Georgia from June 4 to July 2 by the International Republican Institute (IRI) (an American non-governmental organization that supports the development of political parties, civil society, free and fair elections), the opposition parties have the greatest support of Georgian citizens Saakashvili’s UNM party, but it is only 16%.
Mikheil Saakashvili left Georgia at the end of his presidential term in 2013 and has not returned since then. After leaving Georgia, he was appointed by the then President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, as the head of the Odessa Regional State Administration, and held this post from May 2015 to November 2016. According to Ukrainian laws, this position can only be held by a citizen of Ukraine, respectively, Saakashvili received Ukrainian citizenship in May 2015, and then, according to Georgian laws, lost Georgian citizenship.
According to the Georgian Constitution, a person who has citizenship of another state cannot hold the post of prime minister. To regain Georgian citizenship, Saakashvili will have to appeal to the President of the country Salome Zurabishvili.
Also, in order for Saakashvili to become prime minister, the criminal cases initiated against him in Georgia must be terminated. In general, four criminal cases were initiated against the ex-president. In 2017, a Tbilisi court sentenced him in absentia to nine years in prison in two separate cases for abuse of power and embezzlement of funds. Saakashvili denies all charges, claiming they are politically motivated.
Mikhail Saakashvili is currently the head of the Executive Committee of the National Council of Reforms of Ukraine.
“Taking into account experience and mistakes”
After the UNM Political Council announced on September 7 its decision to nominate Mikhail Saakashvili for the post of Prime Minister of the country, the ex-President released a video message to the citizens of Georgia, in which he apologized for the mistakes made during his rule and talked about how prosperous will become Georgia in case he can again head the Georgian government.
“The main thing is not an apology, but the correction of these mistakes. And I want to get the opportunity to correct these mistakes and do much more for our country, for every Georgian family, for every citizen of Georgia – to overcome poverty, improve the country, families, people, create a source of income for each of our citizens. I feel that I personally have the potential for this, and the ability to do it taking into account experience and mistakes ”, – Saakashvili said. The ex-president did not specify the specific date of his return to his homeland.
Reaction in Tbilisi
Former associates of the ex-president from “European Georgia” called Saakashvili’s speech “a toast” and said that, having described the picture of the country’s future prosperity, he forgot to say how he intends to achieve this. Other politicians, including those from the ruling force, called Saakashvili’s statements “frivolous”.
At the same time, representatives of the Georgian authorities note that if Mikhail Saakashvili arrives in Georgia, he will be arrested. As stated by the head of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia Tea Tsulukiani, the detention procedure will take place directly at the state border of Georgia. Tsulukiani also explained that the Georgian side has been trying in vain for years to extradite Saakashvili from Ukraine to Georgia..
At the same time, some Georgian politicians expressed doubts about the fact that Saakashvili really plans to return, saying that most likely Saakashvili is playing a “political spectacle”.
Simultaneously the Prime Minister of Georgia Giorgi Gakharia assured, that Saakashvili will not be allowed to question the conduct of elections in a peaceful and calm atmosphere.
“Let him come, but no one can influence the stability of the country,” the Georgian prime minister said at a September 7 briefing..
At the same time, the Georgian CEC recalled that according to Georgian laws, a person who does not have Georgian citizenship has no right to participate in the election campaign. CEC press secretary Anna Mikeladze said on September 8 that there are no concrete facts yet confirming that Saakashvili violated this norm..
Although the NGO Fair Election claims that even if there is evidence that Saakashvili is running on the campaign trail, the Georgian electoral administration does not have the appropriate leverage to prevent it.