“Netflix is far from it... Watch the second season - the main reformer comes back to the government,” this is hos social media users reacted to the news of April 22 about the possible return of Mikheil Saakashvili to big politics again. The first news was reported by Ukrainska Pravda, citing sources in the presidential Servant of the People faction. “Saakashvili might become a vice prime minister for reforms. We are now discussing this issue in order to understand the mood of the MPs because they should vote for it,” the source noted. A few hours later, Saakashvili himself boasted of an invitation from the president.
"Zelensky thinks he can control Saakashvili, but in reality, he can’t. He once called himself a verdict for Poroshenko, but now, I think, Saakashvili will be a verdict for Zelensky,” political analyst Kyrylo Sazonov commented. Why Zelensky called the former Georgian president and former Odesa governor to join the Cabinet of Ministers?
First version. Find a scapegoat
"Zelensky has accumulated all power on himself, and therefore, he is associated with all the negativity that it produces. His role is to create a variety of balances. At least, let us look at the Verkhovna Rada: the parliament as a whole, and the mono-majority in particular, is one of Saakashvili’s counterparts, although he’s a downed pilot, he’s a rather bright player who would also absorb and delay the negativity of the President’s Office. This strategy might have been advised by political strategists,” Deputy Director of the Ukrainian Institute for the Study of Extremism Bogdan Petrenko notes.
“This is a gesture of despair because Zelensky has realized that he can’t cope with the leadership of the state. The people are getting poorer, everything is falling, the situation with Russia is harsh, not a single promise has been fulfilled. The economy and politics are in critical condition, and the rating goes down. So Zelensky hires a person that would eventually devour him,” Sazonov insists.
And no matter what Zelensky’s motives are, he makes a very serious miscalculation by appointing Saakashvili. This is also indicated by the head of the Ukrainian Politics Foundation, Kost Bondarenko.
Second version. Reducing MIA head Avakov’s influence
Actually, the second version follows from the first.
“Saakashvili is appointed to the government. That is, not to the President’s office or somewhere else. This might be due to an attempt to balance Arsen Avakov, who has no competitors in the government, in a certain way. Their relations are not very good, and the appointment of Saakashvili will force Avakov to work a little with caution, given at least the charisma of the former,” said Ruslan Bortnyk, director of the Ukrainian Institute for Analysis and Policy Management.
Kyrylo Sazonov sees the situation somewhat differently. He does not believe that Avakov and Saakashvili would quarrel because both of them have at least the simple instinct of self-preservation.
The third version. A slap to Poroshenko
But the matter, perhaps, is not only in Avakov and not only in the existential despair of President Zelensky. Giving Saakashvili one of the government seats, he could pursue another goal. A small, but pleasant one. This is revenge on the man whom Zelensky considers, apparently, to be his main enemy and whom Mikheil Saakashvili also considers the enemy – Petro Poroshenko.
“The appointment of Saakashvili might be a slap in the face of Poroshenko. He is in opposition, and his opponent is in power... But the fact is that Poroshenko plays the role of the antipode under Zelensky. At the same time, Poroshenko’s own rating is quite low, and the anti-rating is high, and this saves Zelensky from undesirable comparisons with Poroshenko. Now Saakashvili can also become such an antipode,” says Bogdan Petrenko.
The fourth version. Pleasing America
Bogdan Petrenko draws attention to the telegram channel of ex-MP from the Poroshenko party Serhiy Leshchenko. “The issue of appointing Mikheil Saakashvili to the post of vice prime minister for reforms has been resolved at the level of President Zelensky. He personally invited Saakashvili to join the office,” Leshchenko informs.
“Many people are worried whether Saakashvili’s work would be accompanied by scandals,” he continues. “My answer is: in recent years I have spent many hours talking with Saakashvili. He is scandalous because of a sense of injustice. And this image also burdened him. Therefore, if Saakashvili is not hindered in carrying out reforms, if the schemes are put to an end, then there will be much fewer reasons for scandals.”
“If Leshchenko supports Saakashvili, this may also mean that the Americans with whom Saakashvili had connections are trying to lobby him into power. Since there is an opinion that the IMF loan depends on not only the public but also non-public terms. This non-public list might include the appointment of people in whom our partners are interested,” Petrenko comments.
The "American" version is actively supported by Ruslan Bortnyk. “The return of Saakashvili is an attempt to improve the image of Zelensky and the authorities in the West, as there were problems in communication with Western partners after the resignation of PM Oleksiy Honcharuk and Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka.
However, head of the Third Sector Center Andriy Zolotariov does not agree with this point of view. The reason for the disagreement is simple: he does not consider present Mikheil Saakashvili to be such a significant figure that the West entrusts him with decisions of certain orders.
The ball is in parliament’s court
"The appointment of Saakashvili is a time bomb, especially given his hot-tempered character. He has long proved that he is better at destroying than building. Although Zelensky apparently does not think about it," Andriy Zolotariov adds.
At the same time, it is not so easy to restrain Saakashvili from wanting to gain a foothold in Ukraine. "This is called the abstinence withdrawal syndrome: people who were in high positions, and also very ambitious people – like Saakashvili – have a dependency on being involved in all processes. Standing apart is pretty painful,” Zolotariov assures.
With all this, judging by the words of Serhiy Leshchenko, the issue of appointing Saakashvili could be considered resolved. Formally, the last word belongs to the parliament, but it would most likely meet the wishes of the president.
“In this sense, the reaction of the Kolomoisky group is indicative. When they realized that they were no longer able to stop the decision, the main opportunists, headed by MP Dubinsky, began to say that they supported Saakashvili. MP Buzhansky still wrote garbage by inertia, but let’s see if his brains are set until Friday,” Leshchenko states.
The group of MPs, controlled by oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, is not enthusiastic about the prospect of seeing Saakashvili in the government. These two characters are also connected by a long-standing conflict - namely, those times when “Saakashvili actively pushed Privat group out of the Odesa region and had a serious conflict with Kolomoisky,” Bortnyk recalls.
Today, two extraordinary sessions will be held in parliament, and one of them will be included on the agenda and question about Saakashvili.
By the way, Andriy Zolotariov said in conclusion, there is one person who should be the first to express his attitude to such personnel disturbances - this is Prime Minister Denys Shmygal. But "nobody asked Shmygal - he was just confronted with an accomplished fact," the political scientist notes.