TBILISI -- The United National Movement (UNM) and several other opposition parties in Georgia that are members of the Strength in Unity political movement have nominated former President Mikheil Saakashvili as their candidate for the prime minister’s post ahead of elections in October.
UNM Chairman Grigol Vashadze said on September 7 that Saakashvili "must return to Georgia and be with his people."
Saakashvili wrote on Facebook on September 6 that he plans to announce his return to Georgia.
Saakashvili, 52, served as Georgia’s president from 2004 until 2013.
His UNM party was defeated in the 2012 parliamentary elections by Georgian Dream, a coalition formed by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, a critic of the then president.
Saakashvili left Georgia shortly after his presidential term ended in late 2013 as some members of his party were arrested.
In January 2018, a Georgian court convicted him in absentia of covering up evidence in the case of the killing of a Georgian banker and sentenced him to three years in prison. In June 2018, another court convicted him of abuse of power and sentenced him to six years in prison in absentia.
Saakashvili has denied all the accusations and says the charges are politically motivated.
Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani has said that if Saakashvili returns to Georgia, he would be detained and placed in jail.
In 2015-2016, Saakashvili served as governor of Ukraine’s Odesa region. When he resigned, he accused then Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko of corruption. Poroshenko, in turn, stripped Saakashvili of his Ukrainian citizenship.
As one of his first acts as president last year, Ukraine's current President Volodymyr Zelenskiy restored Saakashvili’s Ukrainian citizenship, facilitating Saakashvili’s return to Ukraine.
In May, Zelenskiy named Saakashvili to head the executive committee of Ukraine’s National Reform Council, which irked Tbilisi.
Parliamentary elections in Georgia are scheduled for October 31.