07TBILISI1979, DAS BRYZA MEETS WITH OPPOSITION MP’S

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI1979 2007-08-08 13:15 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO4823
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1979/01 2201315
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 081315Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7243
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 001979 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR DAS BRYZA, EUR/CARC, AND DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/27/2017 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM GG RU
SUBJECT: DAS BRYZA MEETS WITH OPPOSITION MP'S 
 
REF: A. TBILISI 1638 
 
     B. TBILISI 1477 
     C. TBILISI 1242 
 
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Mark X. Perry for reasons 1.4 (b) and 
(d). 
 
1. (C) Summary: On July 27, EUR DAS Matt Bryza met with 
leading opposition Members of Parliament.  Their most 
urgent concern was elections, and they raised the issues of 
the fairness of the majoritarian system and composition of 
the Central Election Commission (CEC) (reftel A).  Although 
they also mentioned the need to lower the threshold of votes 
required to enter parliament (reftel 
B), they said this was not a top priority.  They agreed 
that if the ruling National Movement (UNM) worked with them 
on the first two issues they would participate fully in the 
election.  The group differed regarding the impact of an 
Okruashvili presidential candidacy.  However, all agreed 
that property rights violations are another "huge problem," 
including confiscations or demolition followed by resale. 
The group appealed to the USG to intercede with Saakashvili 
regarding Irakli Batiashvili's case, claiming it was purely 
political (reftel C).  They noted the imprisoned politician 
is being punished for his political views and "is not a 
traitor."  The group generally agreed with the UNM 
regarding international policy, NATO membership, the 
conflict areas, and Georgia's relationship with Russia. 
End summary. 
 
-------------- 
Election Blues 
-------------- 
 
2. (C) On July 27, DAS Bryza and Charge Perry met with 
leading MPs of four opposition parties: Ivliane Khaindrava 
(Republican Party), Kakha Kukava (Conservative Party), 
Zurab Tkemaladze (Industrialists), and David Gamkrelidze 
(New Rights Party).  Gamkrelidze presented first, but the 
group was in agreement on nearly every issue discussed. 
They emphasized their utmost concern that the upcoming 2008 
Parliamentary and Presidential election be trusted by the 
voters.  So long as the UNM maintains complete control in 
Parliament, they think this trust cannot exist.  Their 
greatest fear is that the new election code will grant an 
insurmountable majority to the UNM and render the 
opposition completely moot.  (Note: This is largely the 
case now as UNM has 135 seats of the 235 seat Parliament. 
End note.)  Thus, the very existence of democracy in 
Georgia will be jeopardized.  All alleged that the Central 
Election Commission (CEC) is controlled by the majority UNM 
and that the new, majoritarian electoral system (reftel A) 
guarantees a disproportionate majority of UNM seats.  None 
of the leaders called for a boycott.  However, they agreed 
that if the UNM worked with them on these two issues they 
would embrace the election and participate fully.  Although 
they mentioned the threshold issue (reftel B), and they 
assume it will be lowered, the group believed that this 
issue was of lesser importance than the other two.  (In a 
conversation reported septel, majority MP Bokeria said that 
now that the UNM is open to a lower threshold, the opposition 
is criticizing the majoritarian system and the composition of 
the Central Election Commission.  Per Bokeria, the UNM is 
unwilling to change the majoritarian system, saying the 
system exists to ensure the opposition is represented in 
Parliament, and that a strong opposition party would be 
competitive in the current structure, regardless.) 
 
3. (C) The group voiced additional election concerns. 
First, that the UNM can and will use unlimited government 
money to finance its campaign and appeal to the public. 
They worried that because the Parliamentary and 
Presidential elections will be held on the same date, the 
popularity of President Saakashvili will likely pull 
additional votes to the UNM's MP candidates.  Bryza noted 
that such a system is normal for Americans.  Additionally, 
the group said that businesses are afraid to show any 
political attitudes or support in public for fear of 
retribution via tax, or property confiscation by the 
authorities.  Finally, while they appreciate the proposed 
USAID program of debates, these will be of no use "if Misha 
(Saakashvili) and UNM do not participate." 
 
------------------------ 
The Okruashvili Question 
------------------------ 
 
4. (C) One area of disagreement was on a possible run for 
President by former Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili. 
Gamkrelidze said that his party does not support such a 
candidacy, arguing that Okruashvili's radical positions 
 
TBILISI 00001979  002 OF 002 
 
 
would be bad for Georgia.  Khaindrava noted that his 
Republican Party is exploring such a possibility, 
countering that Okruashvili could provide more balance in 
the political system. 
 
--------------- 
Property Rights 
--------------- 
 
5. (C) All four MPs alleged that property rights violations 
are another "huge problem," including confiscations or 
demolition followed by resale of pri
vate property.  They 
said there is limited or no due process for such 
confiscations, and that these only happen in areas of 
valuable real estate.  They are especially frequent, they 
said, in Batumi and Kutaisi.  They said the new amnesty law 
would not completely correct the problem as new properties 
are being confiscated for different reasons, such as shoddy 
construction. 
 
----------- 
Batiashvili 
----------- 
 
6. (C) The group also made an impassioned appeal en masse 
to DAS Bryza for the USG to intercede with President 
Saakashvili on behalf of Irakli Batiashvili, former 
Minister for State Security under the Shevardnadze regime. 
Batiashvili was arrested and is imprisoned under charges of 
treason in connection with aiding the warlord Kvitsiani 
(reftel C).  The MPs argued that this is purely a political 
case, the trial was unjust, and that Batiashvili "is not a 
traitor."  Bryza assured the MP's he would urge Prosecutor 
General Adeishvili and other senior Georgian officials to 
ensure Batiashvili enjoyed his right of due process. 
 
--------------------------------- 
International Policy and Abkhazia 
--------------------------------- 
 
7. (C) All parties agreed that they are largely in 
concurrence with the ruling government on international 
policy, resolution in the conflict areas, and NATO 
membership.  Bryza discussed UN mediation efforts on 
Abkhazia, and noted the unwavering support of the U.S. for 
Georgia's territorial integrity.  Bryza noted that Georgia 
seemed to be on a more promising path to resolve the South 
Ossetia conflict by offering the region autonomy within a 
unified Georgia.  He suggested that Georgia might seek to 
resolve South Ossetia first, then secure its NATO-MAP 
aspiration, then turn to Abkhazia.  Bryza also stressed that 
NATO 
membership would be contingent upon sustained implementation 
of democratic and defense reforms, and establishment of a 
vibrant democracy with a viable opposition. 
 
8. (U) DAS Bryza cleared this cable. 
PERRY

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