Yesterday afternoon, October 15, Mikheil Saakashvili came to Kharkiv to speak publically about his program of changes.
The meeting took place near famous Taras Shevchenko monument and gathered over 300 people according to the information from the police press service. However, some participants say there were much more people including supporters of ex-President of Georgia, his opponents and the people, who were “only interested in his ideas.” The meeting was attended by the representatives of the Samopomich political party, Kharkiv Anticorruption Center, NGOs and patriotic organizations members.
The reaction of Kharkivites to this visit was controversial and multi-opinioned, the statements on Facebook reviewing the meeting varied from ardent support to aggressive hatred towards Saakashvili and the people admiring him. Both sides involved more emotions than reasonable logical arguments often turning into mutual personal insults.
“The main purpose of Saakashvili’s visit was to promote a further meeting in Kyiv on October 17,” says Dmytro Bulakh, deputy of Kharkiv Regional Council. “We discussed three demands to be brought before the government – forming the anti-corruption court, limiting the parliamentary immunity and introducing a new law on elections. Mikheil Saakashvili invited Kharkivites to take part in the action in Kyiv”.
One of the participants, Ihor Solomadin, who is a teacher of history, said he was interested in listening to Saakashvili because Mikheil represents opposition to acting Ukrainian authorities and is not connected with old corrupted bodies or Yanukovych political structures.
“I am against the monopoly in power. That’s why I came to listen to Saakashvili. I think he offers some interesting solutions. Also as a vigorous politician, Mikheil has gathered different activists and political forces, some of which I support and trust. Those are the guys from Kharkiv Anticorruption Center, like Dmytro Bulakh and Ihor Chernyak who are working hard to reveal and ruin corruption schemes in Kharkiv state agencies,” Ihor Solomadin highlights.
One of Saakashvili’s opponents, Head of Anticorruption Block of ATO veterans Anton Sosnytskyi, who streamed the meeting, was annoyed that the politician did not answer his questions and “escaped” from Kharkivites, who asked for specific information at the end of the meeting.
“I think Saakashvili and his team are populists, they do not take responsibility for what they say or promise,” says Sosnytskyi. “For me, one of the key questions was where Saakashvili got funding for his campaign and traveling all over Ukraine. But he did not want to answer me.”
According to Sosnytskyi, there were bodyguards of Saakashvili who observed the meeting and “attacked those who were trying to ask him ‘inconvenient’ questions.”
The political scientist Julia Bidenko states the negative thing in Saakashvili’s speech is that he and his team appeal to people’s emotions instead of giving them explanations, educating them or developing their critical thinking.
“What is alarming in Saakashvili team’s statements is that they are populist, they provide emotional influence but no facts. In my opinion, this can lead to bad consequences. They are talking about ‘cancellation of parliamentary immunity’ which is not possible. We can only talk about introducing ‘partial limits to parliamentary immunity,’ like in Europe, when the deputies are protected against political prosecution, but they do not enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution,” explains Julia Bidenko.
The political scientist notes that the election reform, which is offered by Saakashvili, does not provide real changes and is not discussed with the electorate either. According to Bidenko the only reasonable initiative by Saakashvili is that of forming the anti-corruption court, which is really needed in Ukraine.
“However raising populist wave is dangerous,” warns Julia Bidenko.
Despite some arguments between Saakashvili’s supporters and opponents during the meeting, they did not come to blows or fighting. According to Kharkiv police, no one was hurt or detained as a result of the action.
Text: Olena Sokolynska