Misha Pledges Return to Georgia as Reformer and Avenger
He may have lost his Georgian citizenship, but even as a regional governor in Ukraine, ex-Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili appears to be planning a comeback in Georgia.
In an hour-long interview with the ever-Misha-friendly Georgian TV channel, Rustavi2, broadcast on June 2, the former Georgian leader shared grand plans for Georgia’s future and shook his fist at back-home foes.
Yes, he said, I shall return, and “we will” bring jobs, education and dignity to Georgia, which, he claims, has "become uncool" (gabandzda) under a government of amateurs and sycophants to billionaire ex-Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili.
Yes, the seaside metropolis of Lazika, which so far exists only in Misha’s head, will be built for all the separatists to see and to be dazzled by its skyscrapers.
And, yes, he said, drawing on “very good experience in Ukraine with how to make oligarchs return their money,” he will wreak vengeance upon Ivanishvili, whom, he alleged, without offering detailed proof, supposedly has run off with billions at taxpayers' expense.
But when directly asked if he plans to lead his homeland again, Saakashvili, wearing a Georgian-flag lapel-pin, demurred. “People will vote for the man or the group who best fits their vision of what kind of country they want to live in,” he said.
Voters may have gone for Ivanishvili and the Georgian Dream back in 2012 “because they were given a hope for a better life,” he conceded, but not because, “as [Ivanishvili] thinks . . . he is so handsome and magnificent, so eloquent and educated . . . .”
The pull of sakartvelo (Georgia), though, does not come as a surprise to some regional observers.
Dubbing him the “Odessan Bonaparte,” one RFE/RL journalist, VItaly Portnikov, argues that Saakashvili indeed looks on Odessa as a spring-pad for a return to Georgia.
The big question now, though, is if Misha actually can turn the Odessa region into a reform-showcase that will put his critics to shame – whether in Georgia or in Russia.
Unconfirmed reports claim he has recruited as Odessa’s new prosecutor ex-Georgian Justice Minister Zurab Adeishvili, seen as the brains behind Saakashvili’s anti-corruption crackdown in Georgia, and an individual also wanted in Tbilisi. He currently is acting as an advisor to the Ukrainian government.
In a June-3 interview with Ukrainian television, however, Saakashvili denied that Adeishvili had the job. "I think it's possible to find honest Ukrainians" for such a post, he said.
Back in Georgia, the government, though, is not entertained by these political makeovers.
During a working visit to Ukraine that coincided with Saakashvili’s May-30 appointment, Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani rebuked Kyiv by saying that Tbilisi would never have hired ousted Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych or wanted members of his administration in its own government.
Saakashvili, however, has his own take. Tsulukiani, he claimed to Rustavi2, is a “goblin.”