Saakashvili, Mikheil

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.

Saakashvili left Georgia after his presidency ended. He was later (2014) charged with abuse of power and other crimes in connection with the violence in Nov., 2007, and other events, and convicted in absentia (2017, 2018) of abuse of power for pardons he issued and of other crimes. In 2015, Ukraine's President Poroshenko named Saakashvili an adviser on reform and then governor (2015–16) of Odessa region. Saakashvili, who also was granted Ukrainian citizenship, was later stripped of his Georgian citizenship. He denounced Ukrainian corruption when he resigned as Odessa's governor and then formed a political party. After being stripped of Ukrainian citizenship by Poroshenko while abroad in 2017, he reentered Ukraine despite attempts to bar him; he was deported in 2018. After Poroshenko lost the presidency in 2019, his Ukrainian citizenship was restored, and in 2020 he was appointed Ukraine's deputy prime minister for reform.

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