07TBILISI2610, OPPOSITION RESPONDS TO SAAKASHVILI, OTHER RECENT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI2610 2007-10-19 13:43 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO4444
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSI #2610/01 2921343
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 191343Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7942
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 002610 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR DAS BRYZA AND EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM GG
SUBJECT: OPPOSITION RESPONDS TO SAAKASHVILI, OTHER RECENT 
POLITICAL EVENTS 
 
REF: A. TBILISI 2596 
 
     B. TBILISI 2559 
     C. TBILISI 2574 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: President Saakashvili's October 16 proposal 
(ref A) for lowering the party list threshold for next year's 
Parliamentary election was pocketed by the opposition and met 
with additional demands.  The United National Council of 
opposition parties (ref B) on October 17 released a manifesto 
outlining the group's policy priorities.  Key demands 
include: holding Parliamentary elections in Spring 2008, 
creating a new election administration with representatives 
from political parties, changing the current majoritarian 
"winner-takes-all" system, and releasing "political 
prisoners."  Without seeking an appointment, the Council's 
leaders attempted to visit Saakashvili's office to deliver 
their demands on October 17, but were not given a meeting. 
In a closed meeting for Western diplomats on October 18, 
Labor Party Chairman Shalva Natelashvili called for early 
elections.  He asked for Western support for the early 
elections, for countering the "unconstitutional" government, 
and for investigating Okruashvili's accusations against 
Saakashvili.  Currently in London, Badri Patarkatsishvili 
(ref C), published his vision for Georgia's foreign and 
domestic policy in all major Georgian newspapers on October 
18.  The piece noted that Georgia must pursue its own 
interests above friendships.  He said currently Georgia's 
most important foreign policy interests are the U.S. and 
Russia.  End Summary. 
 
--------------------------------------- 
Early Elections and Political Prisoners 
--------------------------------------- 
 
2. (U) On October 16 President Saakashvili proposed to lower 
the party list threshold for next year's Parliamentary 
election to five percent (down from seven percent) and called 
for "constructive political dialogue" (ref A).  The ten 
opposition parties that constitute the United National 
Council (ref B) responded on October 17.  The opposition 
pocketed Saakashvili's proposal and repeated their four other 
demands in a letter to Saakashvili and Speaker of Parliament 
Nino Burjanadze.  In it they requested a meeting on how to 
pull the country out of its current "political crisis."  The 
letter demanded: 1) hold Parliamentary elections in Spring 
2008, 2) create a new election administration to reform the 
Central Election Commission (CEC) and include representatives 
from political parties, 3) change the current majoritarian 
"winner-takes-all" system, 4) release "political prisoners" 
and "prisoners of conscience."  (Note:  In addition to these 
points, the manifesto also calls for: commitment to European 
and NATO integration, restoration of Georgia's territorial 
integrity, independence of the judiciary, an end to political 
violence, and protection of property rights.  End note.) 
 
3. (U) Council leaders downplayed the importance of the 
election threshold compared to the CEC and majoritarian 
issues.  Davitashvili said the President's proposal was made 
to "bribe the opposition."  He said the President, who also 
announced a program for one-time payments of electric and gas 
bills of up to $60 USD to approximately half the country's 
population for the coming winter, was seeking a "way out" of 
the current political situation.  MP Pikria Chikhradze of the 
New Rightists (which is not part of the National Council) 
agreed that dialogue with the ruling party is impossible if 
the UNM refuses to compromise on the election code.  Even so, 
the opposition claims that they do not want to miss an 
opportunity to engage in dialogue with the President. 
Republican Party leader Tinatin Khidasheli stated that any 
such meeting should be held publicly and "not behind closed 
doors."  The Council leaders came to the State Chancellery on 
October 17 to present their demands in person to President 
Saakashvili.  However, they had not requested a meeting in 
advance and were denied admission.  Saakashvili left for 
Portugal later that night. 
 
4. (U) On October 17, Ruling party MP Giga Bokeria said that 
the UNM and President are ready for dialogue, but not in the 
opposition's proposed manner.  On October 18, Parliament's 
Majority Leader, Maia Nadiradze, ruled out any change to the 
CEC's composition.  The same day, ruling party MP Shota 
Malashkhia appealed to law enforcement to investigate 
outspoken National Council leader Goga Khaindrava's decision 
to build "dangerous factories" in the Tskhinvali conflict 
region while Khaindrava was State Minister of Conflict 
Resolution. 
 
5. (U) On October 16, four activists from a newly-created 
opposition youth movement, Georgia Without Violence, were 
 
TBILISI 00002610  002 OF 002 
 
 
arrested for attempting to obstruct Rustaveli Avenue, shortly 
after the movement's founding.  On October 17, the four were 
sente
nced to 20 days detention. 
 
6. (SBU) On October 18, Labor Party Chairman Shalva 
Natelashvili called in Western diplomats to seek their 
support for his agenda.  Natelashvili asked the diplomats to 
support the opposition's call for elections in Spring 2008. 
Taking off from that point, he accused the Saakashvili 
government of being "unconstitutional," of holding political 
prisoners and of repressing the media.  He linked 
Okruashvili's accusations to his own suspicions that 
Saakashvili ordered the death of former Prime Minister Zurab 
Zhvania.  He claimed that Saakashvili had offered him "good 
business and high posts in government" in return for docility 
and accused Saakashvili's uncle of being a Russian agent.  He 
predicted that the government will soon declare a state of 
emergency, arrest him and other opposition leaders, and 
cancel elections.  He then demanded that the Embassies in 
Tbilisi deny visas to government officials because of their 
conduct. 
 
------------------------------------ 
Patarkatsishvili Writes Policy Piece 
------------------------------------ 
 
7. (U)  On October 17, Badri Patarkatsishvili outlined his 
vision for Georgia's foreign and domestic policy.  He said 
that he believes Georgia should be a federal state.  He said 
"the central government should be in charge of defense and 
economy.  All the rest should be relegated to the regions." 
He advocated a two-chamber parliamentary system without a 
president.  In a nod to the Patriarch, he agreed that a 
constitutional monarchy merits "society's attention."  He 
said that "the United States is strong and friendly, but it 
is too far, while Russia is aggressive, but it is close to 
us."  Consequently, Patarkatsishvili said that Georgia's 
foreign policy should be "balanced."  He said Georgia's EU 
and NATO memberships "are fully in line" with the Georgian 
people's interests.  Opposition members largely approved 
Patarkatsishvili's program.  The UNM responded by focusing on 
Patarkatsishvili's business interests in Russia, saying it is 
natural that he would "cede everything" to satisfy these 
personal interests. 
 
8. (SBU) Comment: Speculation continues to swirl around 
Patarkatsishvili's true political intentions.  The rich 
Georgian businessman publicly sympathizes with the 
opposition.  His policy statement brings him another step 
closer to an overt leadership role.  End comment. 
TEFFT

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