07TBILISI2304, CONVERSATION WITH SALOME ZOURABICHVILI

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI2304 2007-09-12 12:51 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO5468
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #2304/01 2551251
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 121251Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7587
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 002304 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/10/2017 
TAGS: PGOV GG
SUBJECT: CONVERSATION WITH SALOME ZOURABICHVILI 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and 
(d). 
 
1. (C) Summary: On September 6, former Foreign Minister and 
hopeful presidential candidate, Salome Zourabichvili, met 
Ambassador.  Zourabichvili has been conducting research in 
the regions and meeting with other opposition members, but 
not campaigning.  She said a strong, coherent opposition is 
critical to ensure Georgia's continuing political 
development.  She said neither Okruashvili's nascent 
presidential campaign nor lowering the party list threshold 
is as important as creating a real opposition to balance the 
current government's power.  She sees this as the 
opposition's primary responsibility, and hers, for the coming 
election.  She thinks President Saakashvili is unbeatable in 
2008, barring a major event.  Zourabichvili believes Russia 
will continue its aggression against Georgia and remain 
dangerous throughout the coming year.  She said that 
Georgians want a "miracle" in South Ossetia, but not war. 
Zourabichvili was skeptical about the economic situation for 
the middle and lower classes, and she said that the judicial 
system remains "a travesty."  End Summary. 
 
-------------------------------- 
Not Me, But We - The Opposition, 
and Where's Okruashvili? 
-------------------------------- 
 
2. (C) On September 6, former Foreign Minister, Salome 
Zourabichvili, called on Ambassador.  The possible 
presidential candidate stated she has indeed been visiting 
the regions, but not campaigning.  Zourabichvili stressed 
throughout the conversation her deep concern about the state 
of Georgia's opposition.  Her goal is to create a coalition 
government among the opposition parties which can result in a 
majority in Parliament.  At a minimum, she wants to build a 
strong enough minority to serve as a check on the president 
and ruling National Movement (UNM).  Her cooperation program 
is 60 percent complete.  Zourabichvili stated that "the 
threshold does not matter to me all."  (The voter threshold 
requirement for party-list representation in Parliament will 
likely drop from 7 to 5 percent.)  She said a lower threshold 
could equal some money and MP seats, but not a real 
opposition.  She is trying to focus on issues and avoid the 
personality politics which have plagued Georgia for years. 
To date, other parties have not yet agreed to cooperate.  She 
is also seeking a forum to discuss energy issues and the 
economy. 
 
3. (C) Zourabichvili said that Irakli Okruashvili has already 
lined up 5 to 6 UNM Parliamentarians, to join his 
presidential candidacy.  They are unlikely to survive the 
drop in MP seats from 235 to 150 next year within the UNM. 
She believes that Okruashvili's candidacy has "muddied the 
cooperation among the opposition.  It is unclear what he is 
doing."  She addressed Okruashvili's age (he turns 35 and 
becomes eligible to run for President only on November 6, 
2008, and the election date is not yet set), and said it 
would be unfair if he can run but not she.  Zourabichvili is 
a Georgian national, but does not meet the Constitutional 
requirement of having lived in Georgia for the past 15 years. 
 She said this Constitutional requirement is incongruous with 
the law, and her court case to determine her eligibility is 
pending.  Zourabichvili said President Saakashvili "can't be 
beat unless something big happens" between now and 
next-year's elections.  Thus, the opposition is critical and 
that they must convince the public to vote. 
 
------------------------ 
South Ossetia and Russia 
------------------------ 
 
4. (C) Zourabichvili said that Saakashvili is self-driven 
regarding South Ossetia and its reintegration.  She thought 
it unlikely that Okruashvili could exert more pressure on the 
President regarding this issue.  As Saakashvili's and the 
UNM's popularity has slid somewhat in the past year, 
Zourabichvili said that making noise about South Ossetia 
gives the impression they are making progress.  She said that 
the public "wants a miracle in South Ossetia, not a war. 
Military action will only be supported if it's fast and 
overwhelmingly successful." 
 
5. (C) Despite her earlier public statements, which 
questioned the veracity of the government's version of the 
August 6 missile incident near Gori, Zourabichvili agreed 
that Russia had violated Georgia's border.  Still, she did 
not entirely trust Minister of Internal Affairs Merabishvili. 
 She said "this will be a dangerous year" regarding Russia. 
She stressed that Georgia needs the EU and not the OSCE to 
help counter Russia's aggression, as Russia can block OSCE 
 
TBILISI 00002304  002 OF 002 
 
 
efforts.  She noted that blasting the UN, as President 
Saakashvili had recently done, does not help.  A lower tone 
and EU support are critical for Georgia in Europe. 
 
------------------------------ 
The Economy, and Judicial Woes 
------------------------------ 
 
6. (C) On the economic situation, Zourabichvili agreed that 
there has been significant foreign investment, but that it 
has not yet benefited the middle or lower classes of Georg
ia. 
 She said that many of the 40-somethings she has spoken to 
have said they will leave if there is no improvement after 
the next elections.  She asked the Ambassador where the new 
jobs are that are being reported.  She noted that "private 
property is a big problem.  People need more ownership of the 
country."  She also expressed concern about the recent lease 
of the railroad infrastructure by the government to a shadowy 
British business.  She fears the Azeris may now control the 
railroad as well as the new oil terminal at Kulevi. 
 
7. (C) "The judicial system is a travesty," said 
Zourabichvili.  She stated that the many recent reforms on 
paper are not working in reality.  She agreed that the 
judiciary must win people's confidence.  On recent evictions 
by the government due to expired leases, she stated that the 
leases in question were not to expire until the end of 
October.  Therefore, the government did have time to give 
notice to tenants; it chose not to do so. 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
8. (C) Zourabichvili was emphatic in her desire to strengthen 
the opposition.  That will require her to win the trust and 
cooperation of the other parties if she expects to be a 
leader of an effective opposition. 
TEFFT

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