07TBILISI1946, THE REPUBLICANS’ OKRUASHVILI PROBLEM

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI1946 2007-08-06 13:14 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO2384
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1946/01 2181314
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 061314Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7203
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 001946 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR DAS MATT BRYZA, EUR/CARC, AND DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/23/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL GG
SUBJECT: THE REPUBLICANS' OKRUASHVILI PROBLEM 
 
REF: A. TBILISI 1370 
 
     B. TBILISI 1638 
 
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Mark X. Perry for reasons 1.4 (b) and 
(d). 
 
1. (C) Summary: During a July 19 meeting with Ambassador, 
opposition Republican Party Chairman, David Usupashvili, 
confirmed his party is in talks with Irakli Okruashvili on 
forming a joint bloc to run in the 2008 elections. 
Usupashvili, who appears to favor the idea, said the 
Republican Party's leadership is split over whether to join 
in a 50-50 partnership with Okruashvili's team in Parliament 
and support his bid for the Presidency (reftel A).  Recent 
polls by his party and Okruashvili indicate significant 
overlap of support among likely voters.  Although Okruashvili 
is popular and in a strong financial position, Republican 
Party leaders are concerned over his controversial past and 
plans for the future.  By joining with Okruashvili they will 
be risking the existence of the party.  Usupashvili said a 
strong Okruashvili showing in 2008 could "lead to better 
civic dialogue," and real opportunities for the opposition. 
He said the opposition must succeed next year in order to 
preserve and continue the progress in Georgia since 2003.  He 
believes that by teaming up with Okruashvili, they could take 
as much as 40 percent of the Parliament.  His goal is to 
prevent a constitutional majority (2/3) for the United 
National Movement (UNM).  Unless the majority accepts the 
opposition's proposal to reform the majoritarian 
winner-takes-all system (reftel B), Usupashvili believes they 
do not stand a chance in 2008 without Okruashvili.  He said a 
final decision would not be made before the end of the 
summer.  End summary. 
 
-------------------- 
A Risk Worth Taking? 
-------------------- 
 
2. (C) On July 19, Ambassador met with Republican Party 
leaders in a follow-up to a June 16 meeting between David 
Usupashvili and Poloff.  Party Chairman Usupashvili, Member 
of Parliament Levan Berdzenishvili, and National Committee 
Member Tinatin Khidasheli, attended.  Usupashvili met with 
former Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili around July 1, per 
Okruashvili's request.  They discussed forming a joint bloc 
between the Republican Party and Okruashvili's team, whereby 
they would be equal partners in supporting Okruashvili for a 
Presidential run in next year's election (reftel A). 
Usupashvili said that his party, and Okruashvili, have 
conducted polls this year revealing common support between an 
Okruashvili presidential campaign and Republican Party 
voters.  Both parties have examined other potential partners 
for the coming 2008 elections.  Usupashvili said they 
considered Badri Patarkatsishvili, but he did not appear to 
be a viable alternative due to serious disputes between the 
two earlier this year.  He believes now that Patarkatsishvili 
will not actively oppose the Republicans or Okruashvili. 
Neither identified any other suitable coalition partners. 
 
3. (C) Usupashvili reiterated his party's need for financial 
support, and Okruashvili has strong financial resources.  The 
former defense minister is popular publicly.  However, 
Usupashvili acknowledged that teaming with Okruashvili is a 
risky consideration.  He told Poloff that Okruashvili now 
says he was personally against some of his own actions and 
words regarding South Ossetia, but that they were a result of 
the President's direction.  Okruashvili "says he is clean" 
from wrongdoing during his cabinet days and that he was the 
only one "to resist and not follow Saakashvili to the end." 
He also claimed that he was uninvolved in former 
Parliamentarian Gelashvili's beating in the street.  All of 
the Republican Party leaders are concerned whether the 
party's progressive ideology could survive such a 
partnership.  They fear Okruashvili may not be an equal 
partner and could consume them.  They feel betrayed by 
Saakashvili after partnering with the President in 2003 and 
are once bitten, twice shy.  An additional concern is that 
Okruashvili will not reach the required age of 35 to run for 
President until 06 November 2008.  Consequently, the 
possibility was raised that the UNM will hold the election 
earlier. 
 
-------- 
The Goal 
-------- 
 
4. (C) In addition to the survival of his party, Usupashvili 
is truly concerned about the viability of Parliament without 
a functioning opposition.  Usupashvili's view is that "if we 
can't get elected, what good are we?  We might as well be an 
NGO."  During a July 16 meeting with Poloff, Usupashvili gave 
 
TBILISI 00001946  002 OF 002 
 
 
an update on his party's goals regarding next year's 
election.  He noted the party would like to gain 20 percent 
of the seats in parliament, or at the very least prevent a 
constitutional majority (two-thirds) by the National 
Movement.  He stated that he is looking to build the party 
during the next election, as winning the Presidency may be 
unrealistic.  As the new Parliament will shepherd in the next 
Presidency, the election is critical for b
oth institutions. 
His preferred goal is to gain 40-45 percent of Parliament for 
the opposition.  Khidasheli, who has a personal history of 
mutual animosity with Okruashvili, still recognized that the 
Republicans need money and a strong candidate.  She said a 
constitutional majority for the UNM would be a "final 
disaster for us."  All three representatives were very 
concerned about preventing the constitutional majority. 
Usupashvili said that "people want changes from Saakashvili's 
team, they don't just want someone to replace him."  He 
emphasized that unless the UNM accepts the opposition's 
proposal to reform the majoritarian winner-takes-all system 
(reftel B), Usupashvili said they do not stand a chance in 
2008 without Okruashvili. 
 
----------------------------------- 
The Decision - Theirs Alone to Make 
----------------------------------- 
 
5. (C) Usupashvili will meet with Okruashvili again in a few 
weeks.  Usupashvili believes the UNM will be dangerous if 
they feel threatened.  The biggest risk, he noted, is if the 
opposition is fragmented and 80-85 percent of the vote goes 
to Saakashvili, which will be bad for Georgia in the long 
run.  He asked Ambassador for his thoughts.  Ambassador 
reiterated that USG could not advise Usupashvili what to do. 
Ambassador stated that with Parliament shrinking from 230 to 
150 seats after the coming election, the UNM will be under 
some pressure regarding who stays and who may leave the UNM. 
He also asked Usupashvili if the Republicans would be equal 
partners with Okruashvili.  Ambassador acknowledged the 
momentous decision they are facing, and the difficulty in 
ensuring they would be entering a truly equal partnership. 
Usupashvili said Okruashvili is awaiting an answer.  He said 
a decision would be made likely during September or October, 
as the campaign begins.  Usupashvili said he would be in 
Washington in November.  Ambassador offered embassy 
assistance in arranging consultations. 
PERRY

Wikileaks

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