Saakashvili returned to his homeland a day before the local elections in Georgia. In a Facebook video, Saakashvili said he was in Batumi on the Black Sea coast, urging people to rebel against the current government.
I risked my life and my freedom to return. The former president said in the video that I urge everyone to come to the elections and vote for the United National Movement.
In the evening of that same day, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili announced the arrest of Saakashvili.
Convicted of abuse of power
He has been wanted since he was sentenced in 2018 to six years in prison for abuse of power while in office between 2004 and 2013. The former president himself rejects the accusations, which he describes as politically motivated.
In recent years, Saakashvili lived in Ukraine, where he was appointed governor of Odessa Oblast by President Petro Poroshenko.
Saakashvili became president after ousting Eduard Scivardnadze in the so-called Rose Revolution in 2004. During his presidency, the country experienced robust economic growth of up to 10 percent annually, while Saakashvili waged a successful fight against corruption in the country known for corruption.
authoritarian leadership style
But he was eventually accused of an increasingly authoritarian leadership style. The vigorously pro-Western war of Saakashvili against Russia in 2004 ended with the loss of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which were already occupied by Russia once and for all.
His party lost the 2012 elections, and the following year, when he could not run for president again, he left the country for Ukraine, where he was a staunch supporter of the Majdan revolution.
When he became governor of Odessa and received Ukrainian citizenship, he lost his Georgian citizenship. But later he clashed with Poroshenko, who accused him of corruption, lost Ukrainian citizenship, leaving him stateless. But in 2019, he took it back from the new president, Volodymyr Zelensky.
Saakashvili’s arrest is expected to lead to unrest and riots among his loyal supporters ahead of Saturday’s elections. The election is seen as a test for the increasingly unpopular ruling Georgian Dream party.
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