07TBILISI2976, TBILISI UPDATE: 11/28/2007

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI2976 2007-11-28 13:36 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

DE RUEHSI #2976/01 3321336
P 281336Z NOV 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 002976 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/27/2017 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
Twenty-Two Bid for Presidency 
1. (U) Central Election Commission (CEC) Chairman Levan 
Tarkhnishvili said, as of the November 26 deadline, 
twenty-two people had registered for the January 5 
presidential election.  In addition to Mikheil Saakashvili, 
oligarch Badri Patarkatsishvili, United National Council of 
Opposition (UNC) candidate Levan Gachechiladze, New Rights 
Party leader Davit Gamkrelidze, and Labor Party leader Shalva 
Natelashvili, other hopefuls include: Green Party leader 
Giorgi Gachechiladze; Teimuraz Shashiashvili, who was 
Governor of Imereti under Shevardnadze; and Avtandil 
Margiani, Deputy PM under Shevardnadze in the early 1990s. 
Each candidate must submit 50,000 signatures in support of 
their registration to the CEC by December 5.  It is likely 
many of the candidates will not fulfill this requirement and 
the candidate field will be reduced to the most well-known 
Acting President Burjanadze Addresses Nation 
2. (U) In a November 26 address, Acting President Nino 
Burjanadze called for "calm and restraint" ahead of the 
January 5 election "in order to maintain stability in the 
country," and said state structures and agencies would 
function as normal during the transitional period. 
Burjanadze said achievements gained in the past four years by 
the government should not be overshadowed by mistakes. 
Burjanadze asked each citizen to "think long and hard before 
casting a ballot," and called the election a very important 
test for Georgia, saying "I am sure we will pass." 
Burjanadze also said she would spare no effort to ensure the 
elections were free and fair.  During her tenure as Acting 
President, Burjanadze has most of the presidential powers, 
but she cannot appoint or dismiss ministers or regional 
governors, and cannot dissolve parliament. 
Plebiscite will be held on NATO Membership 
3. (U) The president's office announced a plebiscite to be 
held January 5 for Georgians to say whether they support 
Georgia's efforts to join NATO.  The decree authorizing the 
plebiscite, which can be called by the president on issues of 
state importance, was signed before Saakashvili stepped down 
as president.  Debate over Georgia's chances to gain MAP in 
2008 continue as ruling party MP Givi Targamadze said it was 
now a more complicated but not tragic situation.  Georgia's 
Way leader Salome Zourabichvili, who returned from Europe 
November 27, told Rustavi 2 TV that Georgia's chance to gain 
MAP in April "was almost equal to zero." 
Lomaia: Open and Free Elections a Must 
4. (C) Alexander (Kakha) Lomaia, the newly appointed 
Secretary of the National Security Council and the 
government's coordinator for the international community on 
elections (reftel), told US elections assistance group 
members that the atmosphere leading up to the elections is 
very important and media monitoring is crucial for 
establishing a positive atmosphere.  Lomaia said the 
government will encourage media to allot to the opposition 
more media time than the minimum permitted by law.  Lomaia 
also said opinion polling and exit polls are important to 
establish the legitimacy of the results.  Lomaia said he 
wants to work closely with international organizations to 
guarantee all conditions are met so the election results can 
be declared above board. 
5. (C) On Patarkatsishvili's candidacy, Lomaia said despite 
credible proof of Patarkatsishvili's attempts to destabilize 
the current administration, he would not be arrested if he 
returned to Georgia to campaign.  Lomaia added the government 
did not want to see a presidential candidate jailed during 
the election and he was "99 percent sure" it wouldn't occur, 
unless something "outrageous happened."  Lomaia said rumors 
that National Movement Party members were masquerading as tax 
police to blackmail business owners to vote for Saakashvili 
were likely a case of overzealous party members promoting the 
cause, but he added the situation was resolved.  Lomaia said 
TBILISI 00002976  002 OF 002 
informal dialogue between the opposition and Acting President 
Burjanadze continued, even though the majority of election 
code amendments had been adopted.  Lomaia said Burjanadze 
told him she was in constant communication with opposition 
Patarkatsishvili's Assets Targeted 
6. (U) The National Bank of Georgia appointed a temporary 
administrator to Standard Bank November 27 because of 
liquidity concerns.  Patarkatsishvili's lawyers said he has 
indirect interests" in the bank and the company that manages 
Patarkatsishvili's USD100 million portfolio in Georgia, 
Salford Capital, said this was part of a systematic campaign 
by authorities to target Patarkatsishvili's assets.  This 
move follows the closure of Imedi TV and radio, and the 
seizure of Patarkatsishvili's Tbilisi-based amusement park. 
Salford Capital chief executive Irakli Rukhadze is also under 
investigation for unlawfully "exercising influence" at the 
National Bank. Salford Capital executives met with PM Lado 
Gurgenidze November 26 to discuss the actions against 
Standard Bank and the law firm hired by Patarkatsishvili to 
represent his interests sent a letter to PM Gurgenidze 
protesting the action. 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
Opposition MP Beaten in Tbilisi, Accuses Government 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
7. (U) On November 27 police arrested three men suspected of 
the November 26 attack on Our Georgia MP Merab Khurtsidze. 
The Interior Ministry released a taped video confession of 
one of the suspects claiming the assault was due to an 
argument between Khurtsidze and the suspects.  Our Georgia 
Parliamentary faction leader MP Valeri Gelbakhiani, said the 
attack was a "political reprisal" by authorities but 
Burjanadze said "as usual, the authorities were blamed (for 
the attack)."  She also praised the Interior Ministry for its 
immediate response to "a very unpleasant incident." 
Khurtsidze left the ruling party to join Our Georgia in 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
Georgian Media Council, Opposition Seek Level Playing Field 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
8. (U) The Georgian Media Council, made up of journalists and 
media experts, drew up a list of 12 recommendations aimed at 
ensuring the elections are objectively covered, including 
calling for equal airtime for all major candidates and asking 
channels to refrain from broadcasting unverified stories. 
Opposition candidates have also drawn attention to the 
necessity for the media to be more fair in its coverage of 
all candidates during the election period.  Several 
opposition leaders appeared on television November 27 to call 
for televised debates that would include all candidates and 
focus on the issues. 


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