Political Consequences of Saakashvili’s Return to Ukraine
Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia and ex-head of the Odesa Regional State Administration, returned to Ukraine on 10 September at a border crossing with Poland. He had been stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship at the end of July by Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko, supposedly for concealing in 2015 from the Ukrainian migration service that he had been under investigation in Georgia.
Saakashvili returned to Ukraine for political reasons—he wants to challenge Poroshenko’s decision in court and build his own political platform under the banners of de-oligarchisation and fighting corruption. A key role in the political attempt will be played by the Movement of New Forces, a party established by Saakashvili in late 2016.
Saakashvili’s presence changes the political balance in Ukraine. It may exacerbate the conflict between, on one side, Poroshenko, for whom the return of a political opponent is a personal defeat, and Yulia Tymoshenko and Andriy Sadovyi on the other. Both Tymoshenko and Sadovyi helped Saakashvili cross the Ukraine border, seeing it as an opportunity to weaken Poroshenko. Since Tymoshenko is likely to be the main opposition candidate in the next presidential election and has a high level of electoral support (10–12%), Poroshenko may be forced to take some actions to discredit the Batkivschyna party leader anyway. Helping Saakashvili therefore will only be a formal pretext to exert pressure on Tymoshenko and her faction.