07TBILISI2559, OPPOSITION COALITION MEETS AMBASSADOR, WANTS EARLY

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI2559 2007-10-10 13:10 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO5775
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #2559/01 2831310
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 101310Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7889
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 002559 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR DAS BRYZA AND EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/08/2017 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM GG
SUBJECT: OPPOSITION COALITION MEETS AMBASSADOR, WANTS EARLY 
ELECTIONS 
 
REF: A. TBILISI 2483 
 
     B. TBILISI 2532 
     C. TBILISI 2030 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1. (C) Summary: On October 9, three opposition leaders 
representing the United National Council of opposition 
parties (ref A) called on Ambassador to discuss their 
activities during the current political crisis.  The trio 
presented a letter on behalf of the opposition parties 
appealing for early Parliamentary elections in April 2008. 
This is closer to the originally scheduled date for 
elections, which were constitutionally changed last year to 
fall of 2008.  The representatives stated the common interest 
of the disparate groups is to ensure free and fair elections 
in Georgia, to restore trust in the government, and to 
encourage Georgia's continued Western integration.  They said 
Okruashvili was a political prisoner and criticized the 
government's handling of the case as the "Russian method." 
They believe early elections are the best opportunity for 
Saakashvili to save face, for the country to extricate itself 
from the current crisis and to meet their common objectives. 
End Summary. 
 
--------------------------------------- 
Political Prisoners and Early Elections 
--------------------------------------- 
 
2. (C) David Usupashvili (Republicans), Konstantine 
Gamsakhurdia (Freedom Party), and Salome Zourabichvili 
(Georgia's Way) met with Ambassador and Embassy staff on 
October 9 representing the opposition parties' United 
National Council.  They had also met with European Union 
ambassadors earlier in the day to deliver their message.  The 
Council was formed following the September 28 protests and 
these three are designated to speak about the Council's 
activities.  The group said the country is in a "political 
crisis" following the arrest of former Defense Minister 
Irakli Okruashvili.  They confirmed they do not deny the 
GOG's accusations against Okruashvili.  However, they deem 
him a "political prisoner," based on the GOG's management of 
the case from his arrest to his televised interview and 
subsequent bail.  They also denounced the handling of his 
confession as the "Russian method" of politics. 
 
3. (C) The representatives claimed that the common interest 
of the ten disparate parties participating in the Council is 
to ensure free and fair elections in Georgia, to restore 
trust in the government, and to ensure Georgia's continued 
western integration.  The Council believes that the ideals of 
the Rose Revolution have been lost by the current government. 
 They stated that the people do not believe free and fair 
elections are possible now in the country.  They said the GOG 
has not responded to calls for dialogue with the opposition 
(ref B) regarding the situation or the timing of elections, 
despite their repeated requests.  The only response they said 
they have received is the installation of the new Central 
Election Commission chairman, Levan Tarkhnishvili, a known 
government supporter.  They called his installation a 
foregone conclusion and "a farce." 
 
4. (C) The opposition leaders presented a letter from the 
Council to the Ambassador warning that the dissatisfaction of 
the people and the government's apparent indifference 
threatens to hold up Georgia's entry into NATO.  The letter 
advocates holding Parliamentary elections in April 2008, as 
was planned before constitutional changes last year. 
Parliament's term was extended and the President's term 
shortened so that the elections coincide in Fall 2008.  The 
letter contends that this change will defuse the tense 
political situation and convince NATO states of Georgia's 
"democratic potential."  It also chides some NATO member 
states for "undue superficiality and forgiveness" in their 
support of Saakashvili's "irrational policy".  The three 
leaders said that they are approaching all western embassies 
to submit their call for early elections.  They believe that 
early elections are the only guarantor of restoring the 
people's trust in government and that if the protests and 
unrest continue until elections in October 2008, "we can not 
say who will control the street or what it will do." 
 
5. (C) Gamsakhurdia said the opposition does not want to 
destabilize the situation, but that conditions are becoming 
unbearable for people.  He said under the proposed election 
code (ref C), and without USG intervention in favor of 
further reform, neither fair elections nor dialogue with the 
ruling party is possible.  Zourabichvili added that one-half 
of Georgia already believes that the USG is "pulling the 
strings of the government."  (The Ambassador said this simply 
 
TBILISI 00002559  002 OF 002 
 
 
is not true.)  Usupashvili reiterated that the council is 
concerned about the future of government, and that many of 
Saakashvili's changes further strengthened his power rather 
than helping the country at large (including consolidating TV &#x000A
;broadcasting, selling state assets, and monopolizing the 
Central Election Commission.) 
 
6. (C) The group stated that the opposition is in a dilemma. 
They must tell the truth to the people, but their criticism 
looks bad outside of Georgia.  They said it shows a divided 
country, which makes European nations nervous.  Furthermore, 
the lack of internal cooperation makes it difficult for the 
international community to believe that such a divided 
country could resolve the conflict areas. 
 
------------------ 
Ambassador and MAP 
------------------ 
 
7. (C) The Ambassador agreed that it is a "political crisis" 
and that a strong, effective opposition is necessary.  He 
asked how moving the election to April would benefit the 
country and not just give the opposition leverage over the 
government.  He also asked if the opposition had any 
alternatives to the existing majoritarian system that would 
make the elections more representative.  Usupashvili proposed 
creating smaller electoral districts that would directly 
elect their representatives.  Finally, the Ambassador asked 
how many seats the opposition thought it could win in an 
alternative system.  Usupashvili and Gamsakhurdia said that 
in a 50-plus-one mandate district, the opposition would take 
a minimum of one-half the 50 majoritarian seats, perhaps 
more.  The Ambassador also expressed concern over the 
shrillness and the usefulness of the rhetoric employed by 
both sides in the current situation.  The opposition leaders 
agreed the rhetoric has gotten quite strident in the current 
tense situation, and that it may be threatening their 
unanimous goal of MAP in NATO.  However, Usupashvili said "if 
we don't speak out about the government, then who will? 
Should we keep quiet to obtain MAP if the National Movement 
then takes over the entire government?"  Zurabichvili was of 
the opinion that MAP at the Bucharest Summit is a lost cause 
anyway,  and therefore the rough and tumble rhetoric of an 
election campaign in the Spring will have no impact on 
Georgia's NATO chances. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
9. (C) Early elections would definitely give the opposition a 
boost, but they are unlikely to bring them to power in any 
case.  The oppositionists were at pains to demonstrate a 
common front and did not seem perturbed over the negative 
impact of their rhetoric.  The three leaders are long-time 
fixtures on Georgia's political scene, and Usupashvili was 
one of the leaders of the Rose Revolution.  However, none of 
them has demonstrated over the past two years the ability on 
their own to galvanize and lead the Georgian public.  Polls 
show only Irakli Okruashvili had that potential.  The 
opposition Council said it still plans to hold a nationwide 
protest on November 2.  The Council's ability to bring people 
onto the street in support, now that Okruashvili has been 
discredited, will be a test of their movement's staying power. 
TEFFT

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