The 35-year-old is a US-educated lawyer with a burning ambition to take over the leadership.

A man who makes little effort to hide his emotions, the ex-minister has set his sights on pulling the ex-Soviet state up by its bootstraps.
  
"This country needs new energy and new leadership and certainly I represent a generation that should take over," Saakashvili said recently in the English he perfected first at Columbia University and then at George Washington University.

Self-confidence

Pride in his achievements is clear in his office and his demeanour; the walls are sprinkled with press cuttings reporting his career.

"I am fighting for my eight-year-old son, and I will just do everything for him to live in a normal country rather than this semi-banana republic," he said. 

Saakashvili, married to a Dutch woman, knows the ways of the West.

He studied first in Ukraine, then in the US and France. But he had always planned to return home.
  
Once back, he was appointed justice minister. Moreover, he was groomed for power by Shevardnadze.

Rebel with a cause

But by 2001, the man who saw Shevardnadze as a mentor had quit his ministerial job in protest against government corruption and the veteran leader's inability to combat it.

"I consider it immoral for myself to remain as a member of Shevardnadze's government," he said at the time.
  
Later that year, he formed what is now Georgia's main opposition party, the United National Movement.

According to opinion polls - cited in a biography issued by his press office - he is the "most popular politician for the last two years".