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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2102

Mikheil Saakashvili: transformation from the statesman to the stateless man

Hemantha Abeywardena writes from London...

Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia, has set a precedent on many fronts and there is no sign that he is going to slow down anytime soon.

There are not many instants in the world, where a leader, after serving the legally-allowed terms in office by the constitution in one country, then heads towards a neighbouring, independent state in order to elevate political ambitions in the host country – having obtained the citizenship of the latter with the help of a contemporary at university, who happen to be a powerful figure during cordial times.

Nor are there any heads of state, who are prepared to climb up 8-story buildings in order to reach the rooftops, only to threat the chasing heavily-armed security personnel that he would throw himself down to commit suicide in protest.

These are a few things, in a relatively long list, which Mr Saakashvili has been performing in the recent past in order to resurrect his deflated political life, having served two full terms in office in Georgia as the president.

Judging by what we see in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, it is clear Mr Saakashvili intends to launch a brand new political career in his adopted country, Ukraine, perhaps cashing in on the current political uncertainty in the latter, in order to reach the pinnacle of his insatiable ambition – the presidency.

He suffered a big setback, though. He was stripped of this Ukrainian citizenship in July by the very man – and his former mate at university – who granted him that during good old days, the current president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko.

When his second term in office ended in 2013, he left for the United States. While he had been there, Georgian authorities stripped of his citizenship on the grounds of his ‘abuse’ of power during his two successive presidential terms. Mr Saakashvili says that the charges are politically motivated.

Having lost the citizenship of Georgia and Ukraine, Mr Saakashvili entered Ukraine through Poland incognito, earning the enviable title, illegal immigrant.

The fact of him being stateless, however, did not stop him from launching the next phase of political career in Ukraine. The Ukrainian authorities lost no time in reining him in, sensing what he was up to – challenging the rule of the current president, Petro Poroshenko.

While Mr Mr Saakashvili was resisting the arrest, he had a sizeable number of supporters by Ukrainian standard, to defend their hero, who has vowed to rid the nation of corruption and mismanagement. The authorities, meanwhile, is going to charge him with accepting $500,000 from a ‘criminal gang’.

Mr Saakashvili, 49, has been a firebrand politician throughout his political career. The fiercely, pro-West politician, however, took big, political gambles that did not always pay off as he expected.

His disastrous war against Russia in 2008 is a case in point. Not only did he lose a part of Georgian territory to Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but also made himself significantly weakened, when the West failed to take on Russian as he would have expected.

Perhaps, the leaders in the West are weary of his risky political adventures that usually launched on impulse. That may be the reason that no Western leader wants to come out in supporting him in his hour of need.

The political ideals of Mr Poroshenko and Mr Saakashvili appeared to have converged to anti-Russian axis at the very beginning of their political union. However, as soon as the latter saw his own opportunity, they started diverging from the same, perhaps much faster than the way they got closer.

Russians, meanwhile, must be watching the new development with glee, as the two politicians who got together to take them on, have finally fallen out in public, instead.

In fairness to Mr Saakashvili, it must be said that during his presidency, he reformed the country at many levels, while enhancing the living standard of its people, while taking on mafia-style institutions that were riddled with corruption.

His most notable achievement was bringing down the index of Ukraine from the list of most corrupt countries, from a three-digit to a double-digit in a matter of few years.

He says he is planning to do the same in Ukraine too, while taking on the powerful. Without a strong political base in Ukraine, it may not be that easy for the person, whose career has been punctuated by risks and gambles.

- Asian Tribune -

Mikheil Saakashvili: transformation from the statesman to the stateless man
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