Georgia’s roving reformer, ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, could soon be on the road again to advise a government about fighting corruption. This time, in Moldova.
At a May-7 press-conference, Moldovan Prime Minister Chiril Gaburici announced that he had invited Saakashvili and his team of consultants from Kyiv, where the former Georgian leader heads up Ukraine’s council of international advisors, to come to the Moldovan capital, Chișinău, in two weeks’ time to talk about ways for Moldova to get a grip on its own corruption woes.
Wrapped up in a money-laundering scandal that cost the country an estimated eighth of a percent of its GDP, the Moldovan government has reason to want to stamp out corruption. If only for its own interests. Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Chișinău on May 3 to lambast the government for its handling of the scandal, and popular outrage appears to be growing.
Saakashvili, who’s had plenty of experience with both scandals and street-protests, shows every sign of making the trip to talk anti-corruption.
Like a PR exec with a new client, Saakashvili on May 6, after meeting with Gaburici in Kyiv, was full of praise for the 38-year-old prime minister; calling the onetime telecommunications executive, a relative newcomer to politics, “a hope for the entire region . . .”
“The Moldovan prime minister has enough potential to bring about real changes in the country. Strengthening the fight against corruption is necessary for there to be success, and the prime minister intends to carry that process out to the end,” Ukrainian news-outlets reported him as saying.
In his Georgian-language Facebook comments, Saakashvili said that Alexander Borovik (Ukraine’s first deputy economy minister) and Gogi Tskhakaia (presumably, the Saakashvili-era deputy justice minister, deputy Tbilisi mayor and former head of Georgia’s redoubted Revenue Service) would head to Chișinău in the coming days “to prepare an anti-corruption package.”
Distracted by a parliamentary vote of confidence, Tbilisi, which has a warrant out for Saakashvili’s arrest, has not commented officially about the proposed Moldovan road-trip, but MPs from the ruling Georgian Dream coalition initially denounced his Facebook statement to the daily Rezonansi as the usual "lies."
The chances, though, are slim that the Georgian government will move strongly against any Misha-Moldova partnership. Both countries share a foreign-policy-kinship through their European-Union ambitions.
Georgia's attempt to have Kyiv extradite Saakashvili to face criminal prosecution proved a failure. The charges got short shrift in Ukraine, where former members of Saakachvili’s administration and party fill several government posts.
For many outside of Georgia, Saakashvili’s image as a get-tough reformer overrides the claims of abuse of office and civil rights which dog his reputation back home.
Aware of those positive views, many in Moscow, presumably, have an eye peeled for his next move in the region. Last month, Komsomolskaya Pravda’s Russian-language Moldovan edition, terming Saakashvili a "Euro-emperor," sounded the familiar alarm about an American-backed conspiracy.
But, confident that he’s making headway in the battle against Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Saakashvili, in an interview with the Misha-friendly Georgian TV station Rustavi2, prefers to focus on his own spin. The discussions with Gaburici indicate that Georgia, he said, "has become a regional brand . . .”
The proof, for him, was in the Purcari. Smiling broadly, Saakashvili displayed on camera a bottle of wine he received from Prime Minister Gaburici containing Moldovan, Georgian and Ukrainian wines, and displaying the Moldovan, Georgian and Ukrainian flags.
Its name was “Freedom Blend.”