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Mikheil Saakashvili

Political Leader

Born: 21 December 1967
Birthplace: Tbilisi, Georgia
Best known as: President of Georgia since 2004
Mikheil Saakashvili is the president of Georgia and the leader of that nation's largest political party, the United National Movement (also ENM, for Ertiani Nazionaluri Modsraoba). Educated in the former Soviet Union, Europe and the United States, he returned to Georgia in 1995 with a degree from New York's Columbia Law School. Elected to parliament in 1997, Saakashvili quickly made a name for himself as a foe of government corruption and then-president Eduard Shevardnadze appointed him to Minister of Justice in 2000. Saakashvili resigned the post a year later in a public show of disgust over high-level corruption. He went on to form an opposition party with a political base in his hometown of Tbilisi, and in November 2003 he was instrumental in pushing Shevardnadze aside in what has been called the "Rose Revolution." Two months later Saakashvili took office as president, having won a quick election by an overwhelming majority. His presidency has been marked by economic growth and strong ties with Europe and the United States (he sent Georgian troops to Iraq to fight alongside U.S. and British forces). His attempts to reassert federal control over the regions of Ajaria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia have met with resistance; disturbances in South Ossetia in 2007 led to Saakashvili exerting executive powers, and his critics accused him of exceeding his authority. He ordered new elections and in 2008 was re-elected by a narrow margin.

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