Mikheil Saakashvili Promises Democratic Reforms

The Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, announced reforms on Monday to answer critics who say he has monopolized power in the former Soviet republic.

The 41-year-old president appears to have weathered a dwindling opposition street campaign to oust him over his record on democracy and last year's disastrous war with Russia.

But beholden to the West to the tune of $4.5 billion in post-war aid, Saakashvili is under pressure to address concerns over democracy in Georgia in order to retain the support of Europe and the new U.S. administration under Barack Obama, Reuters reports.

In the speech, parts of which have been reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Saakashvili pledges to set new local elections, to promise bigger media space for his adversaries and to offer the opposition seats on some decision-making bodies inside government.

The president said in the interview that after a "psychological turnaround" he realized his task was to modernize Georgia. He said his plan was to deepen democracy and ensure a peaceful transition of power when he steps down in 2013.

He also called the hopes of Georgia joining NATO "almost dead," Wall Street Journal reports.

“Joining with the Alliance and reunification with breakaway South Ossetia and Abkhazia unlikely any time soon,” he said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, PanARMENIAN.Net reports.