KYIV — Mikheil Saakashvili, a onetime Georgian president who resurrected his political career in nearby Ukraine, has announced the launch of a new Ukrainian political party and called for early elections just days after resigning his governor’s post in Odesa.
Speaking to reporters in the Ukrainian capital on November 11, Saakashvili repeated accusations that rampant profiteering and obstacles to reform are hurting Ukraine, which remains divided two years after Russia seized Crimea and Moscow-backed separatists began fighting against Kyiv’s authority.
“We will create a new broad political power, a platform of new forces, and our goal is to change the present, existing, so-called political elite, who are actually profiteers and social misfits,” Saakashvili told a press conference.
“Our goal is for early parliamentary elections to be carried out as quickly as possible,” Saakashvili said.
He again lashed out at Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, a former schoolmate whom Saakashvili accused of sabotaging reform efforts in the Black Sea port region when Saakashvili unexpectedly quit the Odesa governorship on November 7.
Saying he once refused Poroshenko’s offer of the post of prime minister, Saakashvili vowed not to meet with the president again until the latter agreed to early elections.
He said working with the president’s ruling Petro Poroshenko Bloc Solidarity party was out of the question.
“There will be no alliance with him or anyone else,” Saakashvili said.
Poroshenko accepted Saakashvili’s resignation earlier this week and suggested that the latter’s political ambitions in Ukraine were stoked by a thumping that Saakashvili’s former party received in Georgian elections last month.
Saakashvili, who now has Ukrainian citizenship, dared Poroshenko at his press conference to kick him out of the country.
Saakashvili — whose reforms in postcommunist Georgia following its so-called Rose Revolution in 2003 won widespread international praise — said his new party would fight for Ukrainian business but oppose the presence of business representatives in politics.
He also said his party would refuse membership to anyone who has served in parliament for more than one term, which could exclude many in the political elite at the time of Ukraine’s Euromaidan unrest in 2013-14.
Road Trip Through The Regions
Western leaders and international financial institutions have repeatedly warned Kyiv that billions of dollars in continued lending and aid is contingent on Ukrainian reforms, including curbing runaway corruption.
At the November 11 press conference, Saakashvili, who seized on the U.S. presidential victory this week of Donald Trump by posting a photo of himself and the New York real-estate mogul together at an event in Batumi in 2012, contrasted the U.S. president-elect with Poroshenko.
“Unlike Trump,” Saakashvili said, “Poroshenko, who has known me even longer, did not want to use my experience because he didn’t want to change Ukraine.” He then played archive footage dubbed into Ukrainian of Trump — who once called Saakashvili “one of the great leaders of the world” — lauding Saakashvili’s reform efforts in Georgia.
Known for fiery confrontations and populist stunts that have included a shouting match at a cabinet meeting and training alongside police during his Odesa tenure, Saakashvili vowed that his new Ukrainian party “will refer to the people” for direction and said he planned a road trip through Ukraine’s regions to rally support.
Saakashvili spent much of his time at the November 11 press conference lashing out at critics, calling their attacks against him “bulls**t.”
“Give me one region in Ukraine that has delivered even one percent of what we achieved in Odesa,” he challenged to the cameras. “Let them shut up now, because they know the truth.”
Saakashvili is sought in his native Georgia on criminal charges related to his term as president that he says are politically motivated.