several thousand people gathered at the demonstration. Mikheil Saakashvili and his closest affiliates addressed the crowd.
The former President of Georgia once again highlighted the necessity to have early elections in the Verkhovna Rada and defeat corruption together with the crooked political elite. In his interview one day before the rally, Mikheil Saakashvili stated that the Government of Ukraine had taken every measure to foil the demonstration.
By organising the first popular demonstration, Mr Saakashvili has effectively launched a campaign of political battle. The first day of the campaign illustrated how hard this battle will be for the new movement; first of all, due to scarce resources. This concerns media resources in the first place because Ukraine’s major news channels (Ukraina, ICTV, STB, 1+1, Inter, Pershii, 5 Channel and 112) have not actually covered the rally. A few reports were aired by Espresso TV, 24 Channel and Hromadske.
Before his open confrontation with President Poroshenko, Mikheil Saakashvili was a frequent and welcome guest on talk shows on the popular TV channels. The circumstances, however, were changed abruptly and TV studio doors were suddenly closed for the new movement and its leader.
The reason for this is that the most influential media outlets, together with political parties, factions of the Verkhovna Rada and the main fields of economy and major enterprises in Ukraine, are divided among influential oligarchic groups. In taking the battle against Ukraine’s current political elite, Mikheil Saakashvili has effectively declared war against almost every group.
At the same time, an unparalleled campaign to smear the former Governor of Odessa was launched in the media and on the internet. Mr Saakashvili’s opponents and the government’s “trolls” are voicing two main messages through the media and social networks: 1. Saakashvili has not actually accomplished anything during his tenure as the Governor of Odessa (as if he had the necessary authority and support from the government) and 2. If Saakashvili’s reforms had been so successful in Georgia, than why did his party lose the elections?
The second category of Mikheil Saakashvili’s opponents, which includes famous political scientists and publicists, reprimand him for demanding early elections. They believe that early elections in the period of armed conflict against Russia will “ruin the country.” There is a kernel of truth in this opinion – the scenario does indeed contain the risk of unrest. However, the authors of this idea should be no less worried by the fact that overwhelming corruption, a growing impoverished population and a lack of readiness in the government to implement reforms is not a lesser (if not higher) threat to incite unrest and “ruin the country.”
Mikheil Saakashvili’s movement seems to be struggling in defending itself from this kind of deliberate campaign. However, the third President of Georgia has a resource which none of the other incumbent Ukrainian politicians are endowed with – he speaks a language understandable for the people, he talks candidly about people’s actual problems and a large part of the public sincerely supports him. It is true that this support has probably dwindled during the last months but Mr Saakashvili remains above any representative of both the government and the opposition in this regard. However, the question is whether or not public support alone is enough to succeed in Ukrainian politics. The oligarchic system is so strong in post-Soviet Ukraine that two revolutions have failed to demolish it. The major Ukrainian paradox is that the level of development of society is far ahead as compared to the level of development of the political elite. This was proven by Maidan and the subsequent armed confrontation when the Ukrainian public demonstrated a powerful ability for self-organisation. However, the revolution in Ukraine still could not give birth to a new political elite which would take care of the country’s progress. Perhaps this needs a certain push outside the system which is what Mikheil Saakashvili’s movement seeks to do.At the same time, Mikheil Saakashvili tries to make the fight at the Ukrainian front compatible with his active involvement in heading and reforming the United National Movement. This might raise certain questions in Ukraine vis-à-vis the direction in which Mr Saakashvili is fighting more vigorously and in which country he sees his political future.