Up to 2,000 protesters attended a rally in Kyiv on Nov. 27 in support of early parliamentary elections and ex-Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s newly-created political movement, called the Movement of New Forces. Saakashvili resigned as governor of Odesa Oblast on Nov. 7, accusing President Petro Poroshenko of blocking his efforts to reduce corruption in the region’s law enforcement bodies, civil service and customs – a claim denied by the president’s representatives. Saakashvili later announced plans to launch a political party in an effort to come to power and replace Ukraine’s political establishment.
The speakers at the rally drew parallels with their movement and the 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution, which ousted ex-President Viktor Yanukovych, and used EuroMaidan slogans.
The place where the rally was held, the crossing of Hrushevsky Street and Muzeiny Alley, was the scene of violent clashes during the revolution in January 2014. It is also close to the office of Saakashvili’s movement.
“There are so many of us here in this place where citizens took power into their own hands three years ago,” said Denys Brodsky, a former reformist head of the National Civil Service Agency and moderator of the rally. “Right here the nation woke up… Your presence here proves that the Maidan’s cause has not been accomplished. Time is up – the last winter of this parliament is at hand.”
Saakashvili also alluded to Vyacheslav Chornovil, a leader of Ukraine’s 1990s independence movement with whom he had been acquainted, since the rally was held in front of a monument to him.
“We are launching a movement that will change the course of our country’s history,” Saakashvili said. “The oligarchic parliament does not reflect the people’s will, contradicts Ukraine’s national interests and threatens the future of our children.”
He called for changing the electoral law to make it easier for non-oligarchic parties to get into parliament, replacing the discredited Central Election Commission, abolishing parliamentary immunity from prosecution and holding snap parliamentary elections.
“(Those in power) know that a wave is rising that will wipe them from the face of the earth and will release the nation from their tentacles,” Saakashvili said.
He also argued that the fate of both Ukraine and Europe depended on whether the nation got rid of its corrupt elite and carried out reforms.
“Not only Ukraine’s independence is at stake but the freedom of the whole of Europe,” Saakashvili said. “Today Ukraine is an outpost of the free world.
The platform of Saakashvili’s movement, as announced by him, includes “uncompromising reforms, zero tolerance for corruption, a total purge of state institutions, jailing thieves in government, freeing the people and businesses from the regulatory burden, a steep cut in taxes and simplifying tax collection.” Other aspects include “fundamental judicial reform, radical liberalization of the old oligarchic economy, the reform of education, healthcare, and social policy and introducing law and order – at a lightning speed, uncompromisingly and – if necessary – very severely,” he said.
Yulia Marushevska, a Saakashvili ally and ex-head of Odesa Oblast’s customs, also spoke at the protest. She argued that “unfortunately corruption in this country is spearheaded by the president.” President Petro Poroshenko has denied the accusations.
Nazar Nagiev, a veteran of the war with Russia who attended the rally, told the Kyiv Post that “nothing is changing in this country.” “That’s why we decided to support him,” he said. We’re hoping for something new.” He also jokingly suggested sending the whole of the Ukrainian parliament as soldiers to the war zone. “Let them gobble worm-eaten porridge for half a year,” he said. “We, the war veterans, will drive all these scoundrels out.”