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Saakashvili's new political class

Roman Goncharenko
December 6, 2016

After stepping down as governor of Odessa, Georgia's ex-president is founding a new party in Ukraine. He outlines his political goals in an interview with DW.

DW-Moderatorin Zhanna Nemtsova im Interview mit Michail Saakaschwili
Image: DW/E. Nikolaeva

Mikhail Saakashvili told DW that his goal is about much more than him becoming the prime minister or president of Ukraine. "I want to totally change the rules of politics," he said.

In the 25 years that have passed since the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has become the poorest country in Europe, Saakashvili said. He believes that "corruption, inaction and ineffectiveness" are to blame, adding: "These people are masters at losing." 

Saakashvili praised his own tenure in Odessa, saying that he eradicated corruption in customs, territorial management, among the police and in the public prosecutors' offices. However, he cautioned the entire system cannot be changed from one place. "It's impossible to clean the ocean from a single beach," Saakashvili said.

The 48-year-old politician came to Ukrainian politics at the invitation of pro-Western President Petro Poroshenko. Before that, he served as president of the former Soviet republic of Georgia from 2004 to 2014, where he gained a reputation as a reformer. Today, his tenure as president is a source of controversy in Georgia, where there have been investigations into abuse of power. Saakashvili's party lost recent elections in the south Caucasus nation, and remains in the opposition.

DW-Moderatorin Zhanna Nemtsova im Interview mit Michail Saakaschwili
DW's Zhanna Nemtsova sat down with Mikhail SaakashviliImage: DW/E. Nikolaeva

'We will win the election'

After roughly one-and-a-half years as regional governor in the southern Ukraine port city of Odessa, on the Black Sea, Saakashvili handed in his resignation in November. The reason, he said, was a lack of support from the government in Kyiv. He also raised corruption allegations against the president.

Later that same November, Saakashvili announced that he was forming a new political party in Ukraine. It is to be called the "Movement of New Forces," and will stand in opposition to the current ruling coalition.

Recent opinion polls in Ukraine indicated that acceptance of a "Saakashvili party" had grown from 1.6 to 3.1 percent. Nevertheless, in order for a party to gain seats in parliament, it has to clear a 5 percent hurdle. Saakashvili appears confident, and is now making the case for new elections.

"I am certain that we will win the election. We will override the president's veto and even be able to start impeachment proceedings," he said, adding that the move should not be seen as a threat against Poroshenko.

"If we don't hold early parliamentary elections, and the current parliament is allowed to stay in power for the next two years, we run the risk of chaos," Saakashvili said.

He believes the status quo has been made untenable due to the stagnating economic situation. The former Georgian leader also warned against regional separatism in Ukraine. "Elections are an answer to the political crisis," said Saakashvili.

Saakashvili appeared on "Nemtsova.Interview" - a weekly Russian-language DW program hosted by Russian journalist Zhanna Nemtsova. The critical talk show features interviews with European, Russian and American politicians and intellectuals on Russia and Russia-related topics.