07TBILISI2964, TBILISI UPDATE: 11/26/07

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI2964 2007-11-26 12:30 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

P 261230Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8292
INFO EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L TBILISI 002964 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR DAS BRYZA AND EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/25/2017 
TAGS: PREL PGOV GG
SUBJECT: TBILISI UPDATE: 11/26/07 
 
REF: A. TBILISI 2948 
     B. TBILISI 2935 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
--------------------------------------- 
Saakashvili Resigns, Declares Candidacy 
--------------------------------------- 
 
1. (U) As expected, on November 25 President Saakashvili 
resigned to launch his re-election campaign.  The resignation 
is required for early presidential elections.  The Parliament 
approved Saakashvili's proposal of January 5 elections by 148 
to 1.  Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burjanadze has become 
acting president; Deputy Speaker Mikheil Machavariani will 
become Parliament Speaker.  This is the second time 
Burjanadze has served as acting president; the first time was 
in 2003 following Eduard Shevardnadze's resignation during 
the Rose Revolution, prior to Saakashvili's election in 
January 2004. 
 
-------------------------------------------- 
Protests In Support of Imedi TV are Peaceful 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
2. (U) An estimated 20,000 - 30,000 protesters gathered in 
Tbilisi's Rike Square November 25 for a peaceful three-hour 
demonstration demanding the immediate restoration of Imedi 
TV.  The protest, organized by the nine-party United National 
Council of Opposition (UNC), marched to the front of the 
parliament building before disbanding.  Conservative Party MP 
Zviad Dzidziguri said protest rallies would continue if Imedi 
didn't resume broadcasting in a few days.  Prior to this 
protest, on November 22, opposition youth activists held 
brief protest rallies outside of Rustavi 2, Mze TV, and the 
Georgian Public Broadcast channel to call on them to express 
solidarity with Imedi TV.  Journalists from several 
Tbilisi-based media outlets signed a petition calling for the 
immediate resumption of Imedi broadcasts. 
 
------------------------------------------ 
Government Holds Televised Cabinet Meeting 
------------------------------------------ 
 
3. (U) On November 24 before Saakashvili's resignation, new 
Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze chaired his first cabinet 
meeting, which was televised live.  Saakashvili told the 
cabinet the next forty days (while he is out of office) would 
be an important test for the government.  He called on the 
ministers to continue to govern with a strong democratic 
mandate and to focus on security and public order to prevent 
"provocations."  Saakashvili urged the government to 
immediately launch all planned social assistance programs. 
Gurgenidze emphasized these social programs would not be paid 
for with new taxes, but suggested they might be covered by 
slowing down planned infrastructure projects.  Saakashvili 
also said other changes remained possible for members of his 
government, telling them the behavior of the government would 
be closely monitored in the period leading to elections. 
Burjanadze said she hoped the cabinet would be "seriously 
refreshed" following the January 5 election.  The cabinet, 
along with new Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze, won a 
confidence vote 155 to 0 in Parliament November 22. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
National Movement Party Holds Congress November 23 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
4. (U) The ruling National Movement held a congress November 
23, which aired live, to nominate Saakashvili as its 
presidential candidate.  Tbilisi mayor Gigi Ugulava, PM 
Gurgenidze, Burjanadze and Saakashvili each spoke to the 
audience of 17,000.  Each speech focused on the need to 
address social problems and reduce the gap between rich and 
poor.  Burjanadze said the necessary reforms taken by the 
government since 2003, while painful at times and accompanied 
by mistakes, should not overshadow the importance of the Rose 
Revolution.  Saakashvili focused his speech on social issues, 
Georgia's territorial integrity, and Euro-Atlantic 
integration.  He also warned there would be "many 
provocations" ahead, referring to Russian interference in 
elections and Badri Patarkatsishvili's efforts to destabilize 
the Georgian government.  Polish President Lech Kaczynski 
attended the congress. 
 
----------------------------------------- 
Ruling Party Shares Internal Poll Results 
----------------------------------------- 
 
5. (C) National Movement MP and Saakashvili insider Giga 
Bokeria told Ambassador November 22 the ruling party had done 
an initial private presidential poll, in Tbilisi only.  He 
reported:  Saakashvili had 22% support, UNC presidential 
 
candidate Levan Gachechiladze 14%, Badri Patarkatsishvili 6%, 
New Rightists MP Davit Gamkrelidze 5%, and Labor Party leader 
Shalva Natelashvili 3%.  The results gave Bokeria confidence 
that Saakashvili could win a first round victory.  In a 
separate conversation, Speaker Burjanadze expressed more 
concern, noting that if Saakashvili did not win the first 
round, the opposition could unify around his remaining 
challenger in a second round. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
Rumors of Pressure to Vote for Saakashvili Continue 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
6. (C) Ambassador raised the issue of alleged pressure
on 
government employees to vote for Saakashvili (Ref A) with 
Burjanadze November 23.  Burjanadze said she had looked into 
these allegations and determined there were a few National 
Movement officials in the Tbilisi City Council who were 
trying to browbeat city employees into supporting 
Saakashvili.  Burjanadze said she told Saakashvili, who then 
ordered those responsible to cease and desist.  On November 
24, Labor Party Executive Secretary Paata Jibladze held a 
press conference to accuse the ruling party of this blackmail 
of public sector employees, and said the authorities also had 
a list of people to remove from voting lists, including 
prisoners' family members, dismissed employees, and people 
known to be against the government. 
 
------------------------------------------- 
New Rightists Congress Endorses Gamkrelidze 
------------------------------------------- 
 
7. (U) New Rightists Party held its congress November 24 to 
formally endorse Davit Gamkrelidze's candidacy for president. 
 The Industrialists and National Democratic parties are also 
supporting Gamkrelidze.  New Rightists MP Irakli Iashvili, a 
member of the Parliamentary Committee for Economic Policy, 
was selected as Gamkrelidze's running mate for Prime 
Minister. 
 
8. (U) Gamkrelidze told his supporters if he won the 
presidential election, he would call for a referendum in 
April to ask the Georgian public what type of government it 
wanted, a constitutional monarchy or parliamentary republic. 
He offered his support to a constitutional monarchy, and 
added that Patriarch Ilia II could act as regent until a 
monarch was identified.  Gamkrelidze outlined his platform, 
including reform of the Interior Ministry, abolishment of 
compulsory military service, and extensive social programs to 
aid the poor. 
 
--------------------------------------- 
Government Wants Free and Fair Elections 
---------------------------------------- 
 
9. (C) Government officials have stressed to us the 
importance of ensuring the January 5 elections are perceived 
as free and fair.  Newly appointed head of the National 
Security Council Alexander Lomaia told the Ambassador 
November 25 he would be the coordinator for the international 
community on election issues.  Lomaia said he hoped the 
international community would support a system of exit 
polling as it had done during the 2003 presidential 
elections.  Acting President Burjanadze and Lomaia encouraged 
the Ambassador to raise any reports of election-related 
problems with them. 
 
10. (U) The Parliament voted November 22 to allow voter 
registration on polling day, an amendment to the election 
code in its third and final reading.  The opposition is 
against same-day voter registration, fearing individuals will 
be able to cast ballots at different polling stations by 
registering several times.  The ruling party emphasized that 
voters registered the same day as elections will be required 
to submit copies of their IDs and their votes will be tallied 
separately. 
 
---------------------------------- 
Requirements to Bid for Presidency 
---------------------------------- 
 
11. (U)  Candidates have until November 26 to declare their 
candidacy for the early presidential elections.  Labor Party 
leader Shalva Natelashvili was the first to register with the 
Central Election Commission (CEC).  New Rightists 
Gamkrelidze, oligarch Badri Patarkatsishvili, UNC candidate 
Levan Gachechiladze, Party of Future leader Gia Maisashvili, 
Russian-leaning Hope Party leader Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia 
and Saakashvili also registered.  The remaining candidates 
that have expressed to the CEC an intention to run are: Levan 
Kidzinidze, Elene Tepnadze-Bagrationi, Ivane Tsiklauri, and 
Tamaz Bibilauri.  Each candidate must submit 50,000 
signatures supporting their candidacy by December 5 (ref B). 
 
------------------------ 
Imedi TV on for a Moment 
------------------------ 
 
12. (SBU) A critical issue for opposition, international 
observers and Georgians alike is the resumption of 
broadcasting by Imedi TV.  On November 23 Bidzina 
Baratashvili, managing director of Imedi TV said there has 
been no direct contact between Imedi and the authorities 
about reopening the station in early December, despite 
remarks to that effect by OSCE Representative on Freedom of 
the Media Miklos Haraszti.  While Imedi claims the status of 
its broadcast equipment is unknown following the November 7 
closure of the station, on November 25 the station broadcast 
one George Michael video without sound.  General Director 
Lewis Robertson said the broadcast was done by the Georgian 
government, presumably to test the signal, not by Imedi. 
 
13. (SBU) Imedi anchor Inga Grigolia announced she was 
leaving her job at the television station November 23. 
Grigolia said she will work with an independent TV studio to 
produce programs for all channels.  Her first project was a 
November 24 interview with President Saakashvili for an hour 
and a half, which aired on the pro-government Rustavi 2 
channel.  Saakashvili said during the interview he had 
information on "dealings" in London between Patarkatsishvili 
and opposition candidates to gain opposition support for his 
presidential campaign.  Saakashvili also said he would 
participate in televised debates if they focused on the 
issues. 
 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
Opposition meets with Polish and Lithuanian Presidents 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
 
14. (U) Opposition leaders met with Polish President 
Kaczynski November 23 and Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus 
November 24.  Conservative MP Kakha Kukava said the visits of 
the two presidents, who came to Georgia to commemorate the 
fourth anniversary of the Rose Revolution, were a 
breakthrough as both pledged to do their utmost to resume 
Imedi TV broadcasts and ensure the January 5 elections were 
democratic. 
TEFFT

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