Saakashvili, Mikheil (mēˈkäēl sä-äˈkäshvēˈlē) [key], 1967–, Georgian lawyer and political leader, president of Georgia (2004–7, 2008–13), b. Tbilisi. He received law degrees from Kiev Univ., Columbia, and Georgetown Univ. In 1995 Saakashvili returned to his homeland to enter politics, winning a seat in the parliament that year as a Union of Citizens of Georgia candidate. Appointed minister of justice in 2000 by President Eduard Shevardnadze, Saakashvili resigned in 2002, claiming that corruption was rampant among his fellow ministers. In 2003 he was a leader of the Rose Revolution, in which demonstrations and the occupation of Parliament led to Shevardnadze's resignation. In Jan., 2004, Saakashvili won the presidency in a landslide victory. Economic growth, judicial reform, and a crackdown on corruption followed, but Saakashvili was accused of being autocratic and marginalizing Parliament.
Following antigovernment demonstrations in Nov., 2007 (which were violently suppressed), he called for a new presidential election, and subsequently resigned to run. He was reelected (Jan., 2008) with more than 51% of the vote. His Aug., 2008, decision to invade South Ossetia to reestablish Georgian control there led to the Russian defeat of Georgia and Russia's recognition of the Georgian breakway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent. Constitutional changes (2010) strengthening the prime minister's powers beginning in 2013 were seen as an attempt to Saakashvili to extend his rule after the end of his second and last term, but the 2012 parliamentary elections resulted in an opposition win.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.