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Saakashvili: the start of political change in Ukraine?

October 16, 2017

Ahead of an opposition protest in Kyiv, former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili tells DW why he would unseat Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko. 

Ukraine, DW-Interview mit Michail Saakaschwili
Image: DW/A. Indjuchova

DW: What do you expect from the rally your party is holding on October 17 in Kyiv – a demonstration that could draw thousands in protest against the president's and the government's politics?

Mikheil Saakashvili: It is the beginning of a process that will certainly lead to a change of political power in Ukraine. I'm on the road a lot, and I know the mood. Since the government doesn't want to enter into a dialogue with the citizens, the citizens will have to take the first step. At first, a few people will take to the streets, address their concerns and make demands. They will be joined by others, and at some point, the authorities will have to react. Should that reaction be inadequate, the citizens will decide on these authorities' fates. But all of this should take place in the framework of a democratic dialogue - that is, peacefully and calmly. Ukraine doesn't need new Maidan revolutions!
This dialogue can only have one result: a change in the political class and the political system.Should President Petro Poroshenko decide to lead the way in this process and to initiate appropriate change, he should be given a chance. Perhaps the people will give him this chance. But I believe it is too late. 

Ukraine, DW-Interview mit Michail Saakaschwili
Mikhail Saakashvili spoke with DW's Alexandra IndjuchovaImage: DW/A. Indjuchova

How do you envision such a dialogue? 

The citizens want the president to keep his promises. He promised to put his best friends behind bars. In truth, his closest business partners can be found in all branches of industry. He also promised to sell his companies. No other businessman stands a chance at success in sectors where the president is has a stake. That includes the banking sector, the automobile industry, agriculture and the confectionery business. He also needs to change the electoral system, and oust the scoundrels from the electoral commissions – people who have been there since the Yanukovych era and who are adept at only one thing, and that is serving the acting government, and coming up with fabrications.

Some people fear you will try to storm parliament in a bid to take over. Is that your plan? 

Storming anything at all would be a great mistake. There's no legitimate foundation for doing so. Should that happen, people who oppose change would say, these are a bunch of radicals. That is not the case. We represent the majority view. 

Rückreise von Polen in die Ukraine - Politiker Micheil Saakaschwili
Saakashvili returned to Ukraine from Poland in mid-SeptemberImage: picture alliance/PAP/dpa/D. Derlmanowicz

Do you want to force early presidential and parliamentary elections? 

That depends on the president and parliament. If they meet the people's demands, then we don't need new elections. Should the president be in favor and parliament opposed, the president should dissolve parliament. If it's vice versa, parliament should demand the president step down. 

Your office is being monitored by members of the Ukrainian SBU intelligence service and the police. What are your thoughts on this? 

This is not good for Ukraine. Poroshenko is using the SBU for political ends. That is bad for the country's security because it binds resources. Something like that is simply not done in a European country, you don't openly spy on politicians. 

Mikheil Saakashvili, 49, is a Ukrainian opposition politician and the former president of Georgia. He was long regarded as an ally of Ukrainian President Petro Poroschenko before he fell out of favor and stepped down from his position as governor of Ukraine's Odessa province in 2016. For formal reasons, Poroshenko in 2017 had Saakashvili stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship. Saakashvili has since returned to Ukraine and founded a new party, the United National Movement, which receives about 3.6 percent of the vote in opinion polls. 

The interview was conducted by Alexandra Indjuchova.