Monthly Archives: December 2007

07TBILISI3179, TBILISI ELECTIONS UPDATE 12/28/2007

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI3179 2007-12-28 13:28 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO1167
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #3179/01 3621328
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 281328Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
INFO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8544

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 003179 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/28/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: TBILISI ELECTIONS UPDATE 12/28/2007 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
-------------------------- 
ODIHR SECOND INTERIM REPORT 
--------------------------- 
 
1.  (U) ODIHR's second report was released on December 28 and 
notes that the campaign environment has been soured by 
allegations of use by Saakashvili of budgetary funds, unequal 
campaign conditions, intimidation, and vote buying.  OSCE 
ODIHR has received information and first hand accounts which 
indicate that some of these claims are credible.  OSCE/ODIHR 
long term observers have substantiated that some 
opposition-appointed members of the Precinct Electoral 
Commissions (PECs) were not informed about inaugural PEC 
meetings.  Initial ODIHR media monitoring indicates a lack of 
balance in the news coverage of most monitored TV stations, 
with Saakashvili generally receiving the most coverage. 
 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
AMBASSADOR RAISES ODIHR CONCERNS WITH BURJANADZE 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
 
2.  (C) Ambassador Boden told Ambassadors on December 28th 
that ODHIR's major concerns revolve around the allegations of 
the use of intimidation during the pre-election campaign. 
Boden was recently in Telavi and saw first hand the misuse of 
administrative resources by the Deputy Governor, who is still 
driving around in his government vehicle while technically on 
leave to conduct campaign business.  Boden said that ODIHR 
has received credible information about the local police in 
Borjomi using intimidation against election commission 
officials, and about similar incidents in Raja, Gordobani, 
Telavi, and Rustavi.  The ODIHR legal analyst told the group 
the opposition doesn't trust the court system and feels that 
they cannot get fair court hearings.  Her analysis is that 
the local courts stretch the law to the limits in order favor 
the majority.  Ambassador subsequently raised these issues 
with Acting President Nino Burjanadze and recommended that 
she address the incidents of intimidation and see that they 
are stopped.  Burjanadze had not yet seen ODIHR's second 
report and seemed genuinely surprised and shocked by 
continuing allegations of intimidation.  She said that she 
had spoken firmly to governors about their responsibilities. 
She said she would raise the issue anew with Security Council 
Chief Lomaia and call the governors in the regions to get to 
the bottom of it. 
 
-------------------------------- 
SAAKASHVILI REFLECTS ON MISTAKES 
-------------------------------- 
 
3.  (U) Presidential candidate Mikheil Saakashvili was 
featured as a guest on Inga Grigolia's late night talk show 
on Rustavi-2 on December 27th.  Saakashvili fielded 
challenging questions from interviewers about his biggest 
mistakes.  Then, the audience members were asked the same 
question.  Below are key comments. 
 
-- Saakashvili confessed that handling Irakli Okruashvili's 
case was his biggest mistake during the 4-year period of his 
presidency.  Kakhi Kaladze, a wealthy and well-known Georgian 
sportsman who plays soccer for an Italian team, responded 
that he felt Saakashvili's biggest mistake was the handling 
of the case of Sandro Girgvliani, who was killed by police in 
a 2006 incident that became a major controversy. 
 
-- Saakashvili pointed out that he no longer needed a 
"revolutionary team" and therefore would plan "a fundamental 
shift" of his political team if he is re-elected. 
Saakashvili said he would not resort to repression against 
his political opponents. 
 
-- Saakashvili presented the priorities of his election 
program and promised that he would leave a united Georgia to 
the person who succeeded him (after Saakashvili's second 
term). 
 
-- Saakashvili promised that during his second term Georgia 
would become a member of NATO.  He regretfully added that 
integration into EU would not be possible during the same 
period. 
 
------------------------- 
PRIME MINISTERIAL DEBATE 
------------------------- 
 
4.  (U) Inga Grigolia's late night television show on 
November 27th also included a second segment featuring point 
and counter-point from the current Prime Minister Lado 
Gurgenidze and two Prime Minister hopefuls, Salome 
 
TBILISI 00003179  002 OF 003 
 
 
Zourabichvili and Irakli Iashvili, New Rights Party.  The 
segment featured mainly Zourabichvili who lashed out at the 
government with accusations of voter intimidation, lack of 
access to media for opposition candidates, and refusal of the 
government to address opposition members' concerns. 
Gurgenidze adroitly answered the accusations with specifics, 
leaving Zourabichvili ill-equipped with generalizations to 
counter the administration's points.  The overall impression 
from viewers we talked to was that the administration soundly 
trounced the opposition candidates on substantive issues. 
 
-------------------------- 
BODEN PREVIEWS ODIHR REPORT 
--------------------------- 
 
5.  (C)  Ambassador met privately December
 26 with OSCE ODIHR 
Chief Dieter Boden to discuss the current situation following 
the publication of the Patarkatsishvili coup plot tapes. 
Boden said he had met earlier in the day with Acting 
President Burjanadze to preview for her the second interim 
report which would be published by December 28.  Boden showed 
the Ambassador the current draft of key findings.  The most 
critical finding was criticism of Saakashvili for improper 
use of administrative resources.  Boden said that over the 
weekend Saakashvili had "opened" a new pipeline in the 
Samtskhe-Javakheti region.  He had used not only the 
Presidential helicopter, but a military helicopter 
accompanied him.  Boden said he asked Burjanadze why 
Saakashvili had opened the pipeline; wouldn't this have been 
more appropriate for her as Acting President.  Boden said she 
acknowledged the point, but did not have a good answer. 
Boden said he told her this kind of action will reignite the 
debate over improper use of administrative resources.  Boden 
also intended to raise this with Presidential Spokesman 
Bakradze in a meeting later in the evening. 
 
6.  (C)  Boden asked if the US intended to issue a statement 
warning against excesses after the election results were 
known.  The Ambassador reviewed what he had said to the press 
earlier in the day, and said we were finalizing an op-ed 
statement for Assistant Secretary Fried.  The ambassador said 
he was also discussing with the OSCE Rep and other 
Ambassadors a possible statement on this issue for the local 
OSCE Ambassadors to issue.  He said one needed to be careful 
with such a statement so that it was not interpreted as 
implicit support for Saakashvili.  The real problem was that 
there were some opposition leaders who are determined to 
launch post-election protests no matter what OSCE ODIHR or 
other experts say.  They have no rational goal in mind, other 
than showing their anger toward the "hated Misha."  Boden 
said he was thinking about the "January 6 problem", saying 
that if the final report of ODIHR on the election finds that 
the process of the election went well but that there were a 
number of problems with the campaign (e.g. misuse of 
administrative resources) the opposition will use any 
criticism to try and discredit the entire process.  Boden 
noted in this regard that he had been impressed with the work 
of the new CEC Chairman and his dedication to ensuring a free 
election.   Boden clearly seemed to be already thinking 
through his final report, and how it would be received not 
just internationally but domestically in Georgia. 
 
----------------------------- 
CEC OUTLINES ITS VOTING RULES 
----------------------------- 
 
7.  (SBU) CEC lawyer Archil Asanashvili briefed us December 
26 on the implications of the CEC's new composition (6 
opposition-appointed members, 1 from the National Movement, 
and 6 appointed by the President and Parliament) for key CEC 
decisions during the election.  He noted that the CEC is 
required to have a two-thirds majority to make certain kinds 
of decisions.  This was the case recently when the 6 
opposition members blocked a plan to organize voting for 
Georgian troops in Iraq.  (A court subsequently ordered the 
CEC to organize such voting, in order to protect the rights 
of Georgian soldiers serving abroad.)  But for most 
decisions, including the certification of results, 
announcement of preliminary results, and (with some limited 
exceptions) de-certification of any candidates, the CEC is 
able to act based on a simple majority of 7 votes. 
 
----- 
IMEDI 
----- 
 
8.  (C)  Lewis Robertson, General Manager of Imedi TV, told 
post press officer that Marty Pompadour, Executive Vice 
President of News Corp and President of News Corp Europe, had 
made the decision to shut down Imedi.   Roberston said he had 
argued that the station should not be closed as it had been 
 
TBILISI 00003179  003 OF 003 
 
 
off the air for 35 days and had fought hard to return to 
broadcasting.  With the staff defections and other threatened 
walkouts by employees, it has become problematic to produce 
newscasts.  Robertson expressed fears about what will happen 
on January 6th, wondering whether there would be violence. 
He said that Pompadour was going to announce in New York City 
that it was News Corp's decision to close the station. 
 
9.  (U)  Prime Minister Lado Gugenidze said that the decision 
to close Imedi was made by the owners, and not the 
government.  He expressed the hope that the channel will 
resume broadcasts soon and that Imedi staff will continue to 
work in the usual regime. 
 
---------- 
G.I.s Vote 
---------- 
 
10.  (U)  The Tbilisi Defense AttachQ Office is working with 
the Central Election Commission to airlift CEC members and 
voting materials to Georgian military members in Iraq.  The 
current plan is for CEC representatives to depart Tbilisi on 
2 January and to complete all voting in Iraq and return to 
Tbilisi on 6 January.  Currently seven members of the CEC are 
planning on making the trip; it is unclear at this point if 
opposition members will also travel.  Post is working to 
coordinate helicopter lift for the CEC members from Baghdad 
to the nine different locations where Georgian military 
members currently serve throughout Iraq. 
 
---------------------- 
Criminal Investigation 
---------------------- 
 
11.  (C)  The British Charge D'Affaires told Ambassador that 
the Georgians are now discussing with British authorities the 
Badri Patarkatsishvili case, and specifically whether he 
could be arrested for plotting a coup from British soil. 
This question has come to light due to the Patarkatsishvili 
coup tapes, where he discusses fomenting unrest in Georgia. 
At the time of the recordings, Patarkatsishvili was both in 
Israel and the United Kingdom.  Contrary to some public 
statements otherwise, the British government did not tape any 
telephone conversations between Patarkatsishvili and others 
as it is against British law. 
 
TEFFT

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07TBILISI3178, GEORGIAN ELECTIONS: CAMPAIGNS SPAR OVER PROCESS IN

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If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol).Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #07TBILISI3178.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI3178 2007-12-28 12:56 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO1147
OO RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #3178/01 3621256
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 281256Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8541
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 003178 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR DAS BRYZA & EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/27/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIAN ELECTIONS: CAMPAIGNS SPAR OVER PROCESS IN 
KUTAISI 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4(b&d). 
 
Comment 
------- 
1. (C) During a December 19-20 pre-election visit to Kutaisi, 
Georgia's second largest city, we found opposition campaigns 
focused almost exclusively on alleged government plans to 
intimidate voters or to manipulate the results.  Some of the 
charges contained credible-sounding details, especially those 
suggesting that activists for the ruling party had warned 
opposition supporters that they could face problems with 
their jobs or businesses.  Many of the charges, however, 
seemed less credible, either because they were unspecific, 
seemed unlikely to effect the results even if true, or 
concerned things that had not yet happened, i.e., abuses that 
the opposition suspected the government was planning to 
commit.  When the opposition did turn to the issues, it 
tended to favor process-oriented ones.  For example, a local 
campaign official for Levan Gachechiladze said his candidate 
was winning support because of his call to abolish the 
position of elected president, adding that Gachechiladze was 
intentionally not emphasizing economic issues.  Ruling party 
and government officials were more focused on promoting their 
record in improving Kutaisi's infrastructure, and their 
ambitious plans to develop Kutaisi as a tourism and 
conference center.  We stressed to all parties that the 
government has a responsibility to ensure a free and fair 
election and, if international observers certify that this 
has happened, the losing parties have a responsibility to 
accept the results.  All parties agreed in principle, but at 
the same time all seemed more focused on criticizing their 
opponents than on reining in their own supporters.  End 
Summary. 
 
Charges Range from Serious... 
----------------------------- 
2. (C) Local representatives of all the major opposition 
candidates -- Gachechiladze, Gamkrelidze, Natelashvili, and 
Patarkatsishvili -- as well as the Georgian Young Lawyers 
Association (GYLA) provided us with a wide array of alleged 
government abuses that they said would, if not stopped 
immediately, make a free and fair election impossible.  Many 
said their campaigns had encountered difficulty renting 
space.  Gamkrelidze's local campaign chief Goga Asatiani said 
he had been unable to get city officials to allow him to rent 
the city's theater for a Gamkrelidze rally, until Gamkrelidze 
raised the issue himself with Acting President Nino 
Burjanadze (who represents a Kutaisi district in Parliament), 
and Burjanadze passed word through the regional governor to 
make the hall available.  Asatiani gave several other 
examples with names included, including one village resident 
who had rented the campaign office space and then lost his 
job with the tax department.  Gachechiladze managed to hold a 
rally in the Kutaisi theater December 19, but one 
Gachechiladze supporter told us the next day that the lights 
had gone out for 20 minutes during the rally -- something he 
was certain was intentional. 
 
3. (C) Asatiani provided names of Gamkrelidze supporters who 
had been harassed for signing petitions, in some cases by 
their own relatives who had themselves allegedly been 
threatened with trouble because of their family ties to 
Gamkrelidze supporters.  Gachechiladze's local campaign 
manager said that someone he knew had forced him to resign 
from a lucrative state job, threatening him with such things 
as trumped-up drug charges or with the arrest of family 
member, after he appeared in a video clip of the opposition 
rally that ended in violence November 9.  We raised such 
reports of intimidation in meetings with a range of local 
officials and the ruling National Movement's campaign.  All 
dismissed the charges as exaggerated.  Imereti Regional 
Governor Akaki Bobokhidze noted that the wife of a leading 
official of the Patarkatsishvili campaign was a member of his 
staff and would remain there.  National Movement campaign 
manager Gocha Tevdoradze said the possibility of such actions 
could be completely "excluded," arguing that the National 
Movement did not need to intimidate voters to win. 
 
...To Curious and Conspiratorial 
-------------------------------- 
4. (C) Other opposition complaints tended to raise more 
questions than answers, for a variety of reasons.  Two 
Gachechiladze campaign officials spoke at length about 
protocols from several recent precinct election commission 
(PEC) meetings in the region that had never been signed as 
required.  They had challenged the protocols in court, 
arguing that they suspected the PEC meetings had never taken 
place.  Asked what advantage the National Movement could gain 
from the unsigned protocols, they could not answer, other 
than to suggest the National Movement could use such 
 
TBILISI 00003178  002 OF 003 
 
 
procedural irregularities as an excuse to invalidate the 
election if it went against them.  (Note: We have elsewhere 
heard a more credible-sounding complaint that some early PEC 
meetings were called without informing opposition members, to &
#x000A;deprive them of a say in the election of PEC officers.)  The 
local head of Natelashvili's campaign, Samson Gugava, said 
the ruling party would know how people on the supplemental 
list -- those whose names were not on the initial rolls -- 
voted, and would decide whether to count their votes 
depending on whether they would help win the election.  These 
theories grant the National Movement a kind of sinister 
omniscience that is not very credible. 
 
5. (C) All the opposition parties complained at length about 
"dead souls" on the voters list.  DEC Chairman Avtandil 
Osepaishvili agreed that there are many more names on the 
list than people residing in Kutaisi.  He explained that the 
families of deceased people often failed to file documents to 
remove the names, many other Georgians are working abroad 
without documenting their absence, and the early elections 
had not given officials enough time to correct the list 
fully.  Several opposition campaigns are spending 
considerable resources going house-to-house to try to check 
the list themselves, and in the process they discovered that 
some registered addresses do not even exist.  None of the 
opposition representatives had specific evidence proving that 
the ruling party would use these extra names for vote fraud, 
although many repeated widespread rumors that local officials 
were printing fraudulent IDs in the names of the "dead 
souls," complete with pictures of National Movement activists 
who would use them to cast multiple votes.  When we noted 
that recent changes to the Election Code putting opposition 
members on the PECs might deter this kind of abuse, some 
opposition representatives acknowledged that this helped, but 
others argued that the government would put so much pressure 
on even opposition PEC members that they would be unwilling 
to object to fraud. 
 
6. (C) All opposition candidates mentioned reports that the 
National Movement had instructed its voters to take a digital 
photo of their marked ballot with a cell phone, in the voting 
booth, so that they could later prove that they had voted for 
Saakashvili.  In order to guarantee that it was in fact their 
ballot in the photo, these voters were reportedly told to 
include a bit of their hand, or a ring, in the shot.  When we 
asked the National Movement's Tevdoradze about these 
allegations, he replied that it would be impossible to find 
enough cell phones for such a large number of voters in 
Kutaisi.  Later, when we conducted an experiment by trying to 
photograph a piece of paper and a hand with a typical 
Georgian cell phone, we found it practically impossible to 
read anything written on the paper in the photo. 
 
7. (C) We spoke with only one person in Kutaisi whose 
analysis of the election contained any degree of 
qualification, balance, or sense that the truth may not be 
all on one side or the other: International Society for Fair 
Election and Democracy (ISFED) Regional Coordinator Teona 
Gogoshvili.  She said there were a few cases ISFED had 
identified as violations, including one in which an 
opposition supporter was pressured to resign as a tax 
inspector, and another in which an opposition member of PEC 
was threatened with business problems if she did not behave 
in a certain way.  Gogoshvili said that when such cases got 
attention, higher-ups in the government often stepped in to 
protect the people who had been pressured, suggesting the 
cases may have been the result of "excessive zeal" by 
lower-ranking government supporters.  Gogoshvili said that 
this is why ISFED is encouraging people to speak up if they 
are pressured, although she acknowledged that many are 
probably afraid to do so.  She said ISFED meets regularly 
with the opposition campaigns, but added that most of their 
concerns are "not well-based or verified." 
 
What About the Issues? 
---------------------- 
8. (C) Governor Bobokhidze predicted that Saakashvili would 
win over 60 percent of the vote in Kutaisi, and 70 percent in 
the outlying villages of the Imereti region.  He said 
Saakashvili was running on a record of achievements, 
including reducing crime by defeating the "thieves-in-law" 
criminal network.  He acknowledged that the government had 
made some mistakes, but expressed confidence that the public 
would not want to go back to the situation of 2003.  (Note: 
Bobokhidze is himself a controversial figure, cited in our 
Human Rights Report for beating a journalist in 2005.) 
National Movement campaign chief Tevdoradze offered a similar 
analysis, saying the government had fulfilled its promises, 
including improving roads and strengthening the army and 
other basic elements of statehood, and was now focusing its 
 
TBILISI 00003178  003 OF 003 
 
 
campaign on the next step: solving social problems. 
Bobokhidze and Kutaisi Mayor Nugzar Shamugia highlighted the 
government's plan to make Kutaisi the next city targeted for 
tourism development, following Sighnaghi, by promoting 
construction of hotels and conference facilities.  Bobokhidze 
said that because of Kutaisi's historical sites, it would be 
well-placed for such development once the government finished 
four-laning the main road from Tbilisi. 
 
9. (C) Gachechiladze's campaign offered a very different 
view, saying Saakashvili's popularity in the region was near 
zero, and his only hope for support was scaring voters. 
Campaign officials said Gachechiladze's support was rising 
because his platform of constitutional reform -- including an 
end the presidency as it is currently known soon after 
Gachechiladze is elected to it -- was resonating with voters 
tired of the "cult of the leader."  A succession of such 
leaders, they said, had brought no progress to Georgia since 
independence.  Asked about Gachechiladze's economic message, 
they said he is not focusing much on economic issues because 
he does not want to give voters "false promises," as 
Saakashvili does. 
 
Comment 
------- 
10. (C) All parties described the election in purely black 
and white terms, but in fact many of the alleged violations 
are most likely the result of the imperfect realities of 
campaigning in a country where a democratic political process 
is still relatively new.  All parties are conducting 
aggressive voter outreach, using door-to-door visits and 
phone calls, in some cases from friends and family members of 
targeted voters.  In addition to canvassing for votes, these 
contacts are often also intended to gauge public opinion and 
to check the accuracy of the voters list.  These efforts may 
be a legitimate part of campaigning (assuming the activists 
are honest about who they represent) but they are no doubt 
unpleasant for many voters, and it is quite likely that many 
instinctively fear that contacts from the ruling party 
contain an implicit threat of trouble if voters oppose them. 
 
11. (C) Public opinion in Kutaisi is hard to gauge.  There 
have been no clearly unbiased polls taken since
the violence 
in November, and the parties' views of public opinion are 
wildly divergent.  Kutaisi has not benefited from economic 
growth to the same extent as Tbilisi and Batumi, and has the 
feel of a city that has yet to recover from the economic 
dislocation at the time of the Soviet collapse.  At the same 
time, the region has earned a reputation for being less 
politically active than Tbilisi and Batumi, despite Kutaisi 
being Georgia's second-largest city, and for dividing its 
votes more or less in line with the country as a whole.  Even 
some opposition leaders told us they did not expect Kutaisi 
voters to play a visible or unusual role on January 5 or 
after. 
TEFFT

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07TBILISI3177, OPPOSITION GEARING UP FOR THE DAY AFTER GEORGIAN

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If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol).Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #07TBILISI3177.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI3177 2007-12-28 12:52 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO1139
OO RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #3177/01 3621252
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 281252Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8537
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 TBILISI 003177 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR DAS BRYZA AND EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/26/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: OPPOSITION GEARING UP FOR THE DAY AFTER GEORGIAN 
ELECTIONS 
 
REF: TBILISI 3161 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1. (C)  Summary:  As the election campaign enters its final 
week and following a series of events that have strengthened 
former president Saakashvili's bid to win the January 5 
presidential elections, it is increasingly clear that most 
opposition parties are planning not for victory on election 
day but for protests on the day after.  Until his abrupt 
withdrawal from the race on December 27, Badri 
Patarkatsishvili's campaign was the starkest voice among this 
group.  His campaign manager told us flatly that the election 
will be falsified and the Georgian people will respond. 
Others in the opposition have been less direct but 
essentially repeating the same line.  Levan Gachechiladze, 
presidential candidate of the United National Council (UNC), 
a nine party coalition of opposition parties, said publicly 
on December 26 that the opposition will not allow former 
president Saakashvili to fulfill his intentions to falsify 
the elections and prevent people from defending their votes. 
Individual parties within the United Opposition, including 
former Defense Minister Okruashvili's Movement for United 
Georgia, the Conservative Party's Kukava, and Georgia's Way 
Zourabishvili are also claiming now that the election will 
not be free and fair.  They are basing this assessment 
largely on complaints about harassment of voters and the 
voters' list.  Two political parties are striking a more 
moderate tone that is not based on calling people to the 
streets after the elections.  David Usupashvili's Republican 
Party (also part of the UNC) privately acknowledged a likely 
win by former President Saakashvili, with a view to focusing 
on the opposition's longtime goal of increasing its 
representation in Parliament.  Similarly, David Gamkrelidze's 
New Rights' Party, which did not join UNC because, in a 
speech on the Parliament floor in November, he said he would 
not join in a plan to foment revolution again in Georgia, has 
been running on a campaign promoting "stability and 
predictability."  We have consistently emphasized in every 
meeting the importance of reporting instances of concern to 
ODIHR and the Government's Task Force.  We have also called 
on all the parties to respect the result of the election if 
ODIHR concludes they were free and fair.  End summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
PATARKATSISHVILI'S CAMPAIGN:  FOCUS ON THE DAY AFTER 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
 
2. (C) Prior to the Patarkatsisvili's sudden announcement on 
December 27 that he was withdrawing from the race, we spoke 
to his new campaign manager, Goga Zhvania, brother of the 
late Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania.  (Note:  MP Galbakhiani, 
Patarkatsishvili's former campaign manager, was replaced on 
December 25 following the December 24 and 25 release of 
videotapes that allegedly revealed a planned coup against 
government.)  Despite the fact that Patarkatsishvili's 
campaign still has no official party, his campaign was 
evidently awash in money.  Unlike the headquarters of any 
other opposition party -- all of which are run down hovels in 
remote parts of town -- Patarkatsishvili's headquarters is 
located in an opulent building next to Patarkatsishvili's 
enormous residence in Tbilisi.  With an interior full of 
marble, stained glass and oil paintings, it is a beehive of 
activity and has what appears to be plenty of staff and 
supplies. 
 
3. (C) In a meeting with Poloff on December 26, Zhvania 
insisted that the Georgian election would be falsified and 
that the people of Georgia would decide how to respond.  His 
deputy claimed that he knew exactly how the election will be 
falsified -- as he was on the Central Election Commission 
from 1992-2001 and knew how it was done -- but that this 
would remain "secret."  (Note:  In a separate meeting on 
December 24 with the Ambassador, Zhvania said that the 
National Movement would use the same technique his brother 
had used.  End Note.)  When asked whether it would be better 
to publicize known ways to falsify the results, Zhvania's 
deputy said the campaign would make public what they expect a 
few days before the elections in order to limit the time in 
which the Government could find an alternative way to falsify 
the results. 
 
4. (C) Zhvania also expressed concerns about the voters' list 
and harassment of local representatives.  Poloff encouraged 
Zhvania to submit these to ODIHR and the Government Task 
Force.  He said that a formal complaint about alleged double 
listing of some 26,000 voters on the voters' list has 
languished at the CEC without response.  Zhvania said that 
the campaign is now operating in an environment of "terror," 
as officials have been arrested and questioned around the 
 
TBILISI 00003177  002 OF 004 
 
 
country after the Government's release of the video and audio 
tapes.  During the meeting, Zhvania's deputy took a call 
which he cla
imed reported on the arrest of a representative 
in Borjomi.  When asked about the tapes, he said that MP 
Galbakhiani was a victim of a government sting operation. 
 
5. (C) He assessed that the release of the tapes would have a 
negative impact on Patarkatsishvili's chances in the January 
5 election.  Poloff urged Zhvania to accept the results of 
the elections provided that ODIHR concluded it was free and 
fair.  Zhvania responded that he knew the result of the ODIHR 
report would be positive and that the election would not be 
free and fair, no matter what the reports of international 
organizations or monitors.  He doubted the neutrality of 
ODIHR assessments and said flatly that the response would be 
up to the Georgian people, not international observers or 
organizations. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
UNITED OPPOSITION:  MANY ALSO FOCUSED ON JANUARY 6 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
6. (C) In a December 21 meeting with Poloff, Chair of 
Okruashvili's Movement for a United Georgia Tortladze, said 
that it was impossible for the elections to be free and fair 
as a result of the intimidation that is taking place in the 
pre-election period.  He noted how his party's offices were 
closed by the Government in November, forcing it to take 
space in a dilapidated apartment in a hard-to-find part of 
town.  He alleged that the intimidation is worse in the 
regions.  Tortladze expressed similar concerns about the 
voters' lists which he contended had an additional one 
million voters.  Poloff urged Tortladze to report to ODIHR 
and the Government Task Force any instances of concern.  She 
also urged the party to accept the results of the election 
provided ODIHR assesses them to be free and fair.  Tortladze 
responded that people would defend their votes if the 
elections are falsified. 
 
------------------------------ 
KUKAVA DOUBTS ELECTION RESULTS 
------------------------------ 
 
7. (C)  In a December 26 meeting with DCM, Conservative Party 
Chair Kakha Kukava expressed doubts that the elections would 
be free and fair even if an ODIHR report may deem it to be 
so.  He was skeptical of ODIHR reports, saying that each 
report has the same carefully worded findings regardless of 
election atmospherics.  Kukava's main source of 
dissatisfaction was with the Central Election Commission's 
Chairman Levan Tarkhnishvili, citing him as an administration 
insider, and the makeup of the district and precinct 
electoral level commissions.  Kukava voiced his frustration 
at the majority's failure to address the opposition's 
concerns, especially the inaccuracies of the voter's list, 
and the need to do away with the additional voters lists as a 
likely source of election day fraud.  He said that the 
opposition had met with Acting President Burjanadze and 
despite her promises to address issues, there have been no 
answers forthcoming.  He repeated several times that the U.S. 
should do an exit survey and mediate between the majority and 
opposition to bring resolution to the points yet unresolved. 
He discounted the authenticity of the recently released 
recordings of Badri Patarkatsishvili and alleged it was a 
stunt by the United National Movement to bring attention to 
Saakashvili's campaign.  According to Kukava, the tapes 
solidify the United National Movement's claims that a "coup 
by dark forces" is imminent and strong measures for security 
are warranted. 
 
8. (C) Kukava repeated that the opposition would organize 
protests on January 6 if the elections results were unfair. 
He said that any protests would be peaceful, just as they 
were November 2-6, until the government forcibly broke them 
up on November 7th.  He asked how opposition members could 
remain calm when police are not punished for publicly and 
openly using excessive force.  Still, Kukava said that 
Gachechiladze and the opposition should not be associated 
with Patarkatsishvili and any attempts to forcibly change the 
government through use of force. 
 
------------------------------------ 
ZOURABISHVILI - THE SYSTEM IS ROTTEN 
------------------------------------ 
 
9.  (C)  In a December 27 meeting with the Ambassador, 
Georgia's Way Salome Zourabishvili and the Republicans' Tina 
Khidasheli said that conditions no longer exist to permit a 
free and fair election campaign in Georgia.  According to 
them both, there was no freedom of media, no campaign funds 
 
TBILISI 00003177  003 OF 004 
 
 
available, and no possibility to have an election without 
intimidation.  If before they had individual complaints about 
intimidation, now the entire system is flawed.   Both 
political representatives were critical of the lack of media 
coverage of opposition candidates, saying that even when 
Imedi was on the air, the reporting was not as it was 
previous to its forced closure on November 7.  Most of 
Zourabishvili's media complaints were linked to the 
television channels' disinterest in interviewing opposition 
candidates on substantive issues.  She complained that the 
issues that opposition candidates are called to comment on 
are not about their platforms, but about statements made by 
other newsworthy figures.  Zourabishvili said that the 
majority of the United National Movement's funding was coming 
from the country's budget and from pressure put on 
businessmen to donate.  Despite Patarkatsishvili's comments 
otherwise, she said that the opposition has not received any 
funding from the wealthy businessman. 
 
10.  (C)  Zourabishvili said that the recent release of tapes 
with Patarkatsishvili offering money to Georgian police 
official Kodua to enlist his support to foment unrest during 
the elections, was a result of collusion between 
Patarkatsishvili and Saakashvili to draw attention away from 
the opposition candidates and to the United National Movement 
(UNM), thereby validating UNM's claims that coup attempts are 
real.  Both Zourabishvili and Khidasheli raised concerns 
about CEC actions to allegedly open special PECs in Kodori 
for military voters and for police officers in Tbilisi.  They 
allege that there are no military serving in Kodori, only 
Ministry of Internal Affairs (MOIA) troops.  With regards to 
special PECS for police on election day, they allege that 
police would vote for the UNM in the opposition stronghold 
precincts of Vake, Mtatsminda and Mtskheta, and vote again in 
their assigned precincts where they reside, thereby voting 
twice.  Still, Zourabishvili said that the opposition is 
focusing not on January, but on winning the election on 
January 5.  She discounted that other opposition members are 
planning otherwise. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
USUPASHVILI AND GAMKRELIDZE STRIKING A MORE MODERATE TONE 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
 
11. (C) In a December 21 meeting with Poloff, Chair of the 
Republican Party Dato Usupashvili (
please protect) assessed 
privately that the best outcome for the January 5 
presidential elections would be for former president 
Saakashvili to be elected and become a "better Saakashvili" 
as a result of the events of the fall.  He stressed that he 
could not say this publicly but that the opposition's focus 
had never been to unseat Saakashvili now but to obtain more 
seats in Parliament to have an impact on the direction of the 
Government.  Although the meeting had occurred before the 
December 24 and 25 release of video and audio tapes 
purporting to show an alleged coup plot by the 
Patarkatsisvili, Usupashvili expressed concern about 
Patarkatsishvili's impact on the elections.  He worried, for 
example, how Patarkatsishvili's party is funding election 
officials throughout the country while United Opposition 
campaigners received nothing for their work. 
 
12. (C) Separately, Usupashvili was disappointed that Acting 
President Burjanadze had not taken the opportunity to be 
neutral in the presidential race and had campaigned directly 
for former president Saakashvili.  He said that there is 
widespread intimidation against opposition party activists, 
and cited an example of a campaigner in Telavi who lost his 
railroad job when his boss found out about his activities as 
representative of a wider effort being conducted by police 
and others nationwide.  Poloff encouraged Usupashvili to 
raise the issue with ODIHR and the Government Task Force.  He 
was frustrated that neither Acting President Burjanadze nor 
Minister of Internal Affairs Merabishvili had agreed to the 
opposition request to make a clear, public statement that any 
attempt at coercion or intimidation of voters would be 
investigated and prosecuted.  Although he said the Government 
could not control every individual, he believed that such a 
public statement would make clear the Government's position 
and cut down on such incidents.  He denied reports that the 
opposition was refusing to meet with the Government's Task 
Force but said that the opposition had not been informed of 
the last meeting. 
 
13. (C) In a December 27 meeting with Poloff, political 
advisor for Davit Gamkrelidze's New Rights Party Shalva 
Pichkhadze assessed bluntly that Saakashvili would win by a 
landslide.  He believed the UNC, with its sloppy attempt to 
bring out supporters to overthrow the Government in November, 
had handed Saakashvili a second term in office.  Pichkhadze 
 
TBILISI 00003177  004 OF 004 
 
 
said bluntly that Georgia needs no more revolutions but that 
the other pro-Western parties were not a strong enough 
alternative to Saakashvili.  They needed help to become 
stronger.  He lamented that everyone from the opposition 
funds their campaigns from their personal resources.  When 
asked about UNM, he told a story of a relative outside 
Tbilisi who relayed receiving pressure from an UNM official 
to contribute 100,000 GEL to UNM or "receive the financial 
police tomorrow."  Pichkhadze said his relative paid the 
money and still will vote for Saakashvili.  He said that 
Georgians simply did not understand democracy - what it means 
to be free - and will choose a bad known for a potentially 
worse unknown.  Still, he believed that the focus of the 
opposition should be on gaining enough seats in Parliament to 
better balance political power in Georgia. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
14. (C) For many in the opposition, all rationality has gone 
and the clear goal is revolution.  As one observer noted, 
Georgia has only known revolution, and when the parties do 
not receive the results they want, it is to revolution that 
they turn.  Some of the opposition concerns ring true, 
especially when they are reported across the country.  We are 
particularly concerned with what appear to be credible 
reports of problems in the pre-election period which are 
giving an advantage to Saakashvili.  We have and will 
continue to raise them with the Government.  Still, 
Saakashvili was and remains a popular figure, especially in 
the regions.  And Georgia needs to get beyond moving from 
revolution to revolution to become a stronger and more 
resilient democracy where election results are deemed fair 
and accepted by all parties.  We will continue to support 
free and fair elections and press this message to all parties 
involved. 
 
 
 
TEFFT

Wikileaks

07TBILISI3174, ALEX RONDELI: THE UNM SHIP MIGHT STILL FLOAT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI3174 2007-12-28 11:40 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO1078
OO RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #3174/01 3621140
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 281140Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8529
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 003174 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR DAS BRYZA, EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/27/2017 
TAGS: PGOV GG
SUBJECT: ALEX RONDELI: THE UNM SHIP MIGHT STILL FLOAT 
 
REF: TBILISI 2454 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT. REASONS 1.4 (b) & (d) 
 
1. (C)  Alex Rondeli, Director of the Georgian Foundation for 
Security and International Studies (GFSIS) and widely 
respected political analyst, shared his views on recent 
political developments and media professionalism with the DCM 
on December 26.  Rondeli wasn,t surprised by reports of 
Patarkatsishvili,s coup plot and expressed admiration for 
the effectiveness the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MOIA) 
sting operation that uncovered the threat.  He believes 
Patarkatsishivili felt safe in meeting MOIA official Kodua in 
London based on Marina Gabunia,s recommendation after 
meeting Kodua and Gelbakhiani,s recommendation after his two 
meetings.  According to Rondeli, Patarkatsishvili asked 
Gabunia, a former judge who was dismissed for corruption, to 
make the first pitch to Kodua because she had a past romantic 
relationship with him. 
 
2. (C) When asked what he thought Patarkatsishvili might do 
as a Plan B if the coup plans are foiled, he responded that 
Plan A had been the November demonstrations and the coup plot 
is Plan B.  Rondeli believes Patarkatsishvili had hoped to 
use the early November demonstrations to topple Saakashvili 
but the strong government response on November 7 turned the 
tide.  Rondeli,s greatest worry now is an assassination 
attempt on an opposition candidate that would be blamed on 
Saakashvili,s supporters.  Rondeli recalled discussions he 
had in Berlin in October when he alerted the German Foreign 
Ministry to the risk that anti-Saakashvili forces could 
assassinate Okruashvili to weaken the Georgian government, 
and thinks this concern led the Germans to finally arrest 
Okruashvili to keep him from harm. 
 
3. (C) Rondeli expressed his view that the Georgian people 
accept as credible the evidence of Patarkatsishvili,s coup 
plot and are shocked and angered by it.  He thinks the 
majority of Georgians will assume calls for demonstrations on 
January 6 will be part of Patarkatsishvili,s plot and they 
now want to hear from the candidates whether they support the 
election or support demonstrations.  Rondeli believes United 
Opposition candidate Gachechiladze, whom he has known since a 
child, is a dirty politician and knew about 
Patarkatsishvili,s plans.  He also believes that the 
opposition candidates have been slow to denounce 
Patarkatsishvili because all of them (with the probable 
exception of Usupashvili and the Republicans) have received 
financing from Patarkatsishvili.  Rondeli sees the 
fingerprints of the Russian FSB on Patarkatsishvili,s plot 
and argues the Kremlin would not let such an opportunity to 
topple Saakashvili pass untried. 
 
4. (C)  Rondeli said the ad hoc media watchdog group that 
Adam Michnik formed in early December is effective as a moral 
force that journalists are paying attention to.   The group 
is composed of seven professionals hand picked by Michnik 
from media, NGOs and think-tanks.  The group convenes at the 
public TV station on Friday evenings for one hour of air time 
set aside for discussion and rendering of opinions about news 
coverage by the various TV stations.  Rondeli said he 
believes the Michnik group is helping to set fair journalism 
standards and that the TV stations are listening and striving 
to avoid criticisms.  According to Rondeli the Michnik group 
has found no serious problems with professional standards 
since beginning its work two weeks ago.  The group plans to 
meet twice more and at this point has no intention of 
continuing beyond the January 5 election. 
 
5. (C)  Rondeli explained that there is no conflict with the 
Media Council formed by the government because the Council 
has a more technical role, to track TV programming to ensure 
that regulatory standards are met, such as balanced coverage 
of the presidential candidates during the election.  Rondeli 
believes the combination of the Michnik group and the Media 
Council has achieved the goal of improved journalistic 
professionalism during the election period and Georgia will 
have to consider how best to maintain these standards after 
January 5 and during future elections. 
 
6. (C)  Comment:  Rondeli was depressed and very critical of 
the government following the November 7 crack down on 
demonstrations.  He even advised Lado Gurgenidze, whom he 
says was the most gifted of his former students, against 
accepting Saakashvili,s offer to be Prime Minister and 
thereby joining a sinking ship.  However, over the past few 
weeks he has come to a grudging acceptance of the 
government,s actions as necessary real politik and now 
believes the United National Movement,s ship might still 
float after the election.  He thinks demonstrations on 
January 6 are unavoidable.  He believes the international 
 
TBILISI 00003174  002 OF 002 
 
 
community has an extremely important role to play because the 
strength and danger of the demonstrations will depend on how 
clear the international community,s verdict on the elections 
will be.  He concedes that we are in a very dangerous and 
confusing period for Georgia and
 he does not have a clear 
idea how this will play out.  End Comment. 
 
 
TEFFT

Wikileaks

07TBILISI3167, IMEDI STRUGGLES AND SUSPENDS OPERATIONS

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If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol).Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #07TBILISI3167.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI3167 2007-12-27 13:41 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO0317
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSI #3167/01 3611341
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 271341Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8522
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 003167 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
FOR EUR/CARC, EUR/PPD AND DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KPAO GG
SUBJECT: IMEDI STRUGGLES AND SUSPENDS OPERATIONS 
 
 
1.  (SBU) Summary.  Imedi TV voluntarily ceased operation shortly 
after 20:00 hrs on December 26, 2007.  This was a decision of News 
Corp management after 16 key Imedi journalists announced their 
resignations in the aftermath of the release of a number of video 
and audio tapes in which Badri Patarkatsishvili, Imedi owner and 
opposition presidential candidate, is allegedly implicated in a coup 
plot.  However, Imedi's head of public and political programs, 
Giorgi Targamadze, in a live television broadcast publicly blamed 
the closure on government pressure.   End Summary. 
 
2. (SBU) Imedi's current closure was announced in a staged tableau 
with Giorgi Targamadze, the head of public and political programs, 
and Bidzina Baratashvili, general director, sitting side-by-side at 
a table in front of some 20 Imedi journalists crowded into an Imedi 
studio.  Giorgi Targamadze stated on live television that Imedi was 
temporarily suspending broadcasts due to "pressure and blackmail" on 
the part of authorities. He said the government's accusations 
against Badri Patarkatsishvili "have put the television station 
staff in an extremely difficult situation." Targamadze assured the 
public that the channel would be back on air in the New Year, 
together with a change in the station's ownership. "We are thinking 
of ways to save the channel. One option is to transfer 100 per cent 
of the shares ... to another owner. This could be to a creative 
group of the TV station's personnel or to persons who are well-known 
and respected by the public and our traditional partner the News 
Corporation."  (Note: Without a change in ownership, many 
journalists say they will not return to the station.) 
 
3.  (SBU) After Targamadze's speech, reporter Merab Metreveli 
stepped out from the crowd of journalists, grabbed the mike from 
Targamadze, and said, also speaking for the other journalists: "It's 
unacceptable for us, as for every other normal person, when Interior 
Ministry representatives tried to commission a Chechen to murder 
Badri Patarkatsishvili.  On the other hand, the methods 
Patarkatsishvili wanted to use to come to power are also 
categorically unacceptable." 
 
4. (SBU) The most well-known faces of Imedi TV, leading reporters, 
anchors, technicians and administrative staff, have now left the 
channel. The brain drain started in the wake of the November 7 
shutdown when Inga Grigolia, the popular anchor of the Reaktsia talk 
show, left because of "Badri Patarkatsishvili's publicly stated 
desire to run for presidency." Earlier in the afternoon of December 
26, six journalists from Imedi's most popular show, Droeba, called a 
press conference to announce why they quit the station: "Badri 
Patrakatsishvili, the founder of our TV company and a candidate in 
the presidential election, has been at the center of recent 
developments. It is unacceptable for us to continue working at Imedi 
TV, because even our journalistic freedom can now be misused." 
 
5. (SBU) The public has generally reacted favorably to this second 
closure of Imedi.  Most representatives of the Georgian media and 
public called the decision of the Droeba journalists "a painful 
step, but the only right step," and "an adequate reaction to the 
exposure of Badri Patarkatsishvili's true intentions." Some 
journalists said "I would do the same not to become a tool in 
Badri's hands," while a few thought the Droeba crew needed to 
"provide a better justification for their decision" or even that "it 
was an emotional, but unprofessional decision." 
 
6. (SBU) Government figures emphasized they had no role in the 
closure, and the Prime Minister stated that he was in contact with 
News Corp Executive Vice President Marty Pompadour to find out News 
Corp's plans for Imedi TV. Meanwhile, Opposition figures generally 
insist that Imedi TV only suspended its broadcast due to government 
pressure. 
 
7. (SBU) Many observers feel that this action by Imedi journalists 
represents a breakthrough in the professionalism of the Georgian 
media that will serve to liberate other media from political 
pressure.  Lasha Tugushi, editor-in-chief of daily Resonance said 
that "the time has come for media to self-regulate and to be 
self-critical."  Observers praised the professional ethics of Imedi 
journalists, with the exception of Targamadze whose live statement 
was perceived as unbalanced, and pure political theater. In private 
conversations with the Embassy, Droeba journalists shared their 
concerns that Targamadze's actions went beyond acceptable 
journalistic standards, but, rather, reflected the behavior of a 
politician. 
 
8. (SBU) Comment. Since its initial reopening on December 12, Imedi 
TV has been careful to be more balanced in its reporting even though 
their owner is a candidate for the presidency.  But the latest 
revelations concerning Patarkatsishvili seem to have made this 
closure necessary, in the opinion of News C
orp.  It is now essential 
that the government of Georgia not be perceived as having shut Imedi 
down.  Many in Georgia are now waiting for some comment from News 
Corp.  End Comment. 
 
 
TBILISI 00003167  002 OF 002 
 
 
TEFFT

Wikileaks

07TBILISI3166, SAAKASHVILI STRONG IN ZUGDIDI DISTRICT

WikiLeaks Link

To understand the justification used for the classification of each cable, please use this WikiSource article as reference.
Discussing cables
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol).Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #07TBILISI3166.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI3166 2007-12-27 13:06 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO0284
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSI #3166/01 3611306
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 271306Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8519
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 003166 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
SENSITIVE 
 
STATE FOR EUR/CARC AND EUR/FO 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL GG
SUBJECT: SAAKASHVILI STRONG IN ZUGDIDI DISTRICT 
 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: Mikheil Saakashvili is strong in Samegrelo 
and its capital, Zugdidi, the home of many displaced persons 
from the conflict in Abkhazia.  His National Movement is 
well-organized, well-funded and has many campaign volunteers. 
 As a result, he is likely to gather a majority of the 
district's voters, of whom 76,000 are expected to go to the 
polls.  By contrast, the opposition seems focused on 
complaints about the voters' list and harassment by police 
and/or National Movement supporters.  However, despite their 
insistence about the unfairness of "dead souls" on the voters 
list, they do not explain clearly how such names would be 
translated into votes in the ballot box.  They are far less 
active in seeking votes door to door than Saakashvili's 
supporters.  They have not sought the free time available to 
them on the local TV station.  While Embassy officers were in 
Zugdidi, Saakashvili was able to turn many local citizens out 
for a concert held in a driving rain.  End Summary. 
 
2. (SBU) Zugdidi is the largest city in Samegrelo/Zemo 
Svaneti region and an important agricultural services center 
for Western Georgia.  It is also the home of a majority of 
the displaced persons from the conflict in Abkhazia.  On 
December 17-18, Econoff and two Embassy LES employees visited 
the city to learn more about the status of the Georgian 
presidential campaign.  They learned that Saakashvili 
demonstrates substantial strength in the district, which has 
about 120,000 voters in the city and surrounding villages, 
divided into 104 precincts/polling places.  The opposition in 
Zugdidi seems poorly organized and more focused on complaints 
about the voters' list, access to media, and alleged 
intimidation by police and Saakashvili supporters than on 
"retail politics" and getting out the vote.  By contrast, the 
Saakashvili campaign is well-organized, with a top layer of 
Tbilisi-based campaign directors and paid workers, who 
supervise numerous volunteers.  According to the Zugdidi 
National Movement campaign chairman, Lasha Damenia, there is 
one volunteer for every 100 voters in the district.  These 
volunteers actively encourage their assigned group to vote 
for Saakashvili.  Posters for Saakashvili are everywhere, 
even plastered on a Coca-Cola delivery truck.  Nothing 
similar for the other candidates was visible away from their 
campaign headquarters. 
 
THE GAMGEBELI 
------------- 
 
3. (SBU) On November 17, we met with Aleksander Kobalia, 
Gamgebeli (governor) of Zugdidi district, and a member of 
Saakashvili's National Movement.  Kobalia said that National 
Movement polls are showing Saakashvili with 82 percent 
support in the Zugdidi district.  He attributes the high 
level of support to the Saakashvili government's success in 
bringing 24 hour electricity supply and resurfacing of roads 
to the region.  It is likely also a result of the Saakashvili 
administration's strong support to the IDP population which 
lives here and also in the Gali district of Abkhazia. 
Kobalia's father is an influential businessman in Zugdidi and 
owner of the local television station, Odishi.  The 
opposition points to this fact as support for its allegations 
that it cannot get time on the station. 
 
THE DISTRICT ELECTION COMMISSION CHAIR 
-------------------------------------- 
 
4. (SBU) We also met with Nana Okujava, Chair of the Zugdidi 
District Election Commission.  She said she was engaged in 
making corrections to the voters' list, which has been a key 
complaint by the opposition in the district.  However, she 
said that she had had no face to face discussions with 
opposition representatives since the elections were 
announced.  Okujava agreed with Kobalia that Saakashvili's 
strength derives from infrastructure improvements.  However, 
she added that many Zugdidi residents believe that 
Saakashvili is the only hope for solving the problem of 
reintegration of Abkhazia into Georgia.  Zugdidi was the site 
of a protest organized by the opposition prior to the major 
demonstration on November 2.  Okujava said that more people 
came from Tbilisi to participate in the Zugdidi demonstration 
than from Zugdidi itself.  A special problem in Zugdidi is 
registering and accounting for Internally Displaced Persons 
(IDPs) from Abkhazia.  Many of these people live in Gali, in 
Abkhazia, and come to Zugdidi to vote.  Estimates of their 
number we heard in Zugdidi ranged from 33,000 to 54,000. 
 
GAMKRELIDZE'S SUPPORTERS 
------------------------ 
 
5. (SBU) Bachuki Kardava is the chair of the National 
Democratic Party, and lives in Tbilisi.  His party is allied 
with Davit Gamkrelidze's New Rights party.  Kardava is 
 
TBILISI 00003166  002 OF 003 
 
 
heading the Gamkrelidze campaign out of a comfortable house 
in Zugdidi.  He said that the New Rightists believe they can 
pick up a significant number of votes in Samegrelo. 
Gamkrelidze plans to visit Zugdidi soon.  Kardava accused the 
local government of dominating the political process in 
Zugdidi an
d intimidating voters, making it hard to find 
people to campaign for the opposition.  In particular, he 
complained that he had recruited people to represent New 
Rights on Precinct Election Commissions, but that they had 
quit after feeling pressured by the National Movement.  He 
added that he will submit his list of pollwatchers as late as 
possible to ensure they do not receive undue attention from 
the authorities.  Kardava sounded a recurring theme by 
claiming that there are lots of "dead souls" on the voters' 
list.  Because the election was called on short notice, there 
was little time to improve the list, he said.  On the other 
hand, he said his campaign headquarters had not been 
subjected to harassment and he had no problem with getting 
the media to cover his campaign events.  He has talked on the 
telephone with Okujava at the DEC.  Like his candidate 
Gamkrelidze, Kardava suspects the other opposition parties 
are (wrongly) preparing themselves more for January 6, the 
day after the election, than for the January 5 election 
itself.  Kardava said that he will be vigilant at the polls 
to prevent falsification of the vote protocols and to watch 
for evidence of "carousel voting".  Any result that gives 
Saakashvili more than 70 percent of the vote will be 
fraudulent, he added. 
 
GACHECHILADZE'S SUPPORTERS 
-------------------------- 
 
6. (SBU) We then met with the United Council of the 
Opposition, whose candidate is Levan Gachechiladze, the 
regional coordinator for the Tavesupleba (Freedom) Party was 
Tengiz Gergedava, from Tbilisi.  About seven or eight other 
local party workers participated in the meeting.  Gergedava 
said that one major reason for disenchantment with 
Saakashvili is politicization of the military and police, and 
the lack of checks and balances on police power.  One of the 
party workers complained specifically about being arrested 
"for no reason" in 2005.  Other complaints focused on the 
period before the November 2 Tbilisi demonstrations, with 
participants in the October Zugdidi rally allegedly receiving 
anonymous telephone threats.  Light punishments of National 
Movement supporters who tried to break up the rally received 
criticism.  Regarding the election campaign, the party 
workers said that they cannot rent space on billboards 
because the billboard owners are afraid.  Saakashvili posters 
are ubiquitous now in Zugdidi.  They also complained about 
two instances of police contacts with opposition supporters 
that engendered fear.  A worker from Poti was especially 
bitter, saying that the police there are controlling and 
monitoring people who visit the party office, and that the 
party flag was knocked off the roof of the building.  (Note: 
at no time did we notice any police presence anywhere near 
the party offices we visited in Zugdidi.)  Gergedava was 
concerned about the voters' list, as was Kardava. He also 
alleged that in Zugdidi, the National Movement is putting 
people on the Precinct Election Commissions who are 
pretending to be New Rights or Labor representatives. 
 
7. (SBU) Asked what they are doing to campaign, the workers 
said that people do go door to door to seek votes, and they 
hold meetings to which supporters can come.  Gachechiladze is 
getting his fair share of free television and radio time on 
national TV and radio, they said.  However, they have not 
requested any free time on the local TV station, Odishi, 
because they believe any such request is useless, given that 
it is controlled by the Governor and his family.  They have 
requested and received time on local radio.  Gachechiladze is 
coming to Zugdidi on December 26, they said.  The Poti 
representative claimed that 4000 people saw Gachechiladze 
when he came to Poti on December 9, but the event was ignored 
by the national media. 
 
8. (SBU) Gergedava was cagey about the opposition's plans for 
after the elections.  He claimed that it is Saakashvili who 
is making up the idea that the opposition will not accept the 
results of the polls and will return to the streets. 
However, he feels that the elections are being subverted in 
the pre-election period and the international election 
monitors are focused on election day.  The opposition will 
review the reports by the election monitors "with care", he 
said. 
 
LOCAL TELEVISION 
---------------- 
 
9. (SBU) Gocha Minjoria, the director of the local Odishi TV 
 
TBILISI 00003166  003 OF 003 
 
 
station, told us that the opposition parties prefer to spend 
their money on national TV stations rather than on local TV. 
Only the National Movement is spending money on local 
advertising, he said.  Therefore the National Movement is not 
using its free time on the station.  Moreover, he said, the 
opposition parties have not claimed the free time to which 
they are entitled.  They have called regarding how to get 
time, but have not followed up.  The station has 8 
journalists who are covering all the parties equally, he 
said.  The station has a grant to hold a debate on December 
28 and is inviting the local representatives of the 
candidates to participate. 
 
SAAKASHVILI'S SUPPORTERS 
------------------------ 
 
10. (SBU) The weather in Zugdidi on December 17 was cold and 
steadily raining.  Nevertheless, many people turned out for a 
concert in support of Saakashvili.  Saakashvili's Dutch-born 
wife, Sandra Roloefs, won praise for her singing of a 
traditional Mingrelian folk song, watched over by a beaming 
Saakashvili.  Even though the onlookers were bussed in by the 
National Movement from surrounding villages, the turnout was 
impressive given the weather, which was truly atrocious.  On 
December 18, the National Movement coordinator, Lasha 
Damenia, told us that 8000 people had come to the concert. 
The town was certainly jammed with traffic the evening of the 
concert, even if that figure was exaggerated, as is often the 
case in Georgia.  Damenia stressed that the opposition 
parties are very inactive.  The National Movement, he said, 
tries to focus on local problems people may be having, 
responding to letters complaining about such things as 
unpaved streets.  He showed us the letter Saakashvili has 
sent to senior citizens promising to raise pensions if he is 
elected.  Saakashvili has visited Zugdidi three times since 
the election was announced, and will visit two more times 
before January 5.  No opposition candidate has yet appeared 
personally in Zugdidi. 
 
11. (SBU) Damenia responded to concerns about the voter 
lists.  While the United Opposition claimed that 30,000 of 
the 120,000 names on the list are erroneous, Damenia 
estimated that it is really no more than 2000 or so.  He 
dismissed the idea of carousel voting as very difficult, 
given the presence of TV cameras in the polling places 
focused on the ballot box and registration table, as well as 
other safeguards.  Although he knows what "carousel voting" 
is, he said it is as a practical matter all but impossible to &#x0
00A;organize effectively.  He estimates that of the 120,000 or so 
registered voters, 76,000 will vote on January 5 in Zugdidi, 
and of those, 56,000 will vote for Saakashvili.  He bases his 
estimates on the very active work of the National Movement 
volunteers.  These campaigners visit each of the 100 voters 
they are responsible for and determine their preferences. 
For those voters who lean to candidates other than 
Saakashvili, he said, the volunteers try to find relatives or 
respected friends who support Saakashvili and will try to 
persuade them to change their votes. 
 
NATELASHVILI AND PATARKATSISHVILI 
--------------------------------- 
 
12. (SBU) We found Shalva Natelashvili's Labor Party 
headquarters in the city center, but its entrance was quite 
hard to find and there was only a caretaker present who could 
tell us nothing about his campaign in Zugdidi.  We saw 
nothing of Badri Patarkatshishvili's campaign, although we 
heard from several people who told us he was paying 200 lari 
to individuals to work the polls for him. 
TEFFT

Wikileaks

07TBILISI3152, PATARKATSISVILI COUP PLOT UNCOVERED

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI3152 2007-12-24 10:20 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO8944
OO RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #3152 3581020
ZNY CCCCC ZZH ZZK
O 241020Z DEC 07 ZFF4
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC NIACT IMMEDIATE 8506
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L TBILISI 003152 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR A/S FRIED, DAS BRYZA AND EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/24/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PREL GG
SUBJECT: PATARKATSISVILI COUP PLOT UNCOVERED 
 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1.  (SBU) On December 24, the Prime Minister called in the 
U.S., UK, French, German and Baltic Ambassadors to provide a 
briefing on a plot to undermine Georgia's presidential 
election on January 5 and thereby to overthrow the Georgian 
government.  The Prime Minister showed videos of 
Patarkatsisvili,s campaign manager (and Parliamentarian) 
Valery Gelbakhiani offering a bribe to a senior police 
official, Irakli Kodua, in exchange for taking part in 
conspiracy to thwart the elections and trigger mass unrest in 
Georgia.  Specifically, Kodua was to capture and if necessary 
kill Minister of Interior Vano Merabishvili as part of the 
plot.  At Patarkatsisvili,s request, Kodua subsequently met 
Patarkatsisvili in London on December 23.  Kodua wore a body 
microphone which picked up incriminating statements made by 
Patarkatsisvili during the meeting, including requesting that 
the coup begin on January 3 or 4 with the capture or killing 
of Merabishvili.  Kodua returned to Tbilisi early on December 
24.  The tape of his meeting is being processed and will 
probably be made public on December 25.  Patarkatsishsvili 
apparently calculated that Kodua would join a plot because 
his mother and brother have both been caught in corruption 
probes; as a result of this corruption, his brother left 
Georgia and is now in London. 
 
---------- 
NEXT STEPS 
---------- 
 
2. (SBU) In his meeting with the Ambassadors, Prime Minister 
Gurgenidze previewed the Government,s planned next steps, 
including his briefing of the OSCE ODIHR Ambassador Boden, 
OSCE Ambassador Hakala, and representatives from the Council 
of Europe and the EU, the Acting President,s briefing of the 
opposition, and the Government,s public disclosure of the 
coup plot and release of the incriminating videos at noon. 
Later on December 24, there will be a Security Council 
meeting and Acting President Burjanadze will address the 
country.  Patarkatsisvili,s campaign manager, who we 
understand is currently in Yerevan, will be invited to the 
MOIA for questioning but will not be arrested.  (Note:  As an 
MP, he has immunity which can be lifted by Parliament.  End 
note.) 
 
---------------------------------- 
ACTING PRESIDENT BRIEFS OPPOSITION 
---------------------------------- 
 
3. (SBU) After briefing Western ambassadors, Acting President 
Burjanadze met with opposition leaders to brief them on 
evidence of the suspected Patarkatsishvili coup plot. 
Opposition representatives who showed up included Republican 
Party leader Usupashvili, Kukava of the Conservative Party, 
Tkemeladze of the Industrialists, and Gachitadze of the New 
Rights Party.  The Acting President also spoke on the phone 
with New Rights leader Gamkrelidze and opposition coalition 
candidate Gachecheladze.  As of 1500 local time there has 
been no public reaction by opposition leaders. 
 
-------------- 
PUBLIC RELEASE 
-------------- 
 
4. (U) At noon on December 24, the Government released the 
two videos recorded by Kodua.  They were carried on all 
Georgian national television stations, including Imedi, 
Patarkatsisvili,s station.  In a follow-up interview with 
Rustavi 2, Gelbakhiani admitted having met with Kodua but 
said that the tape was edited.  He claimed his goal was to 
have an ally in the MOIA should there be protests following 
the January 5 elections.  Gelbakhiani said he plans to 
convene a press conference on the issue. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
5. (C) We believe the plot to disrupt the elections and 
overthrow the government was real.  Bred in arrogance or 
desperation, Patarkatsishvili appears to have gambled that he 
could manipulate the election process and bring about a 
change in government.  At this point there is no indication 
of demonstrations in Tbilisi.  The private reaction seems to 
be one of shock that Patarkatsishvili would go to this extent 
to achieve power. 
TEFFT

Wikileaks

07TBILISI3151, GEORGIAN ELECTIONS: COMPETITION FOR THE FIRST TIME

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI3151 2007-12-21 12:41 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO7848
OO RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #3151/01 3551241
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 211241Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8503
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 003151 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR DAS BRYZA AND EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/21/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM PHUM GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIAN ELECTIONS:  COMPETITION FOR THE FIRST TIME 
 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1. (C)  Summary:  As the Georgian Presidential election 
campaign gears up for its final two weeks, a number of themes 
have emerged on the campaign trail.  The most glaring is the 
brutal blood sport aspect of the Georgian campaign, with each 
political party battling to the death for dominance.  The 
ruling United National Movement (UNM) and the opposition's 
United National Opposition (UNC) are both guilty of turning 
every issue into a gruesome winner-take-all contest.  As a 
result, the campaign has at times become over the fairness of 
the election itself instead of over the issue of the day, 
with every party vying for the approval of Western Embassies 
and international observers.  That said, local experts agree 
that this is the most competitive election in Georgian 
history, with the opposition mounting the most credible 
campaign ever against a strong, ruling party candidate in 
former President Saakashvili.  It is also the first election 
in almost a decade where the voters list (as a result in part 
of U.S. assistance) has not been the number one problem. 
Experts also agree that more than ever, candidates are 
traveling to the regions to actually attempt to garner votes. 
 Our message to all is to focus on the issues and to respect 
the results, provided that international observers consider 
them representative of the will of the people.  End summary. 
 
-------------------------- 
CAMPAIGNING AS BLOOD SPORT 
-------------------------- 
 
2. (C) Politics in Georgia is not for the faint of heart and 
the current campaign for the Presidential election on January 
5, 2008 shows that neither is campaigning.  The most glaring 
theme of the campaign is the brutal blood sport aspect of the 
race, with each political party battling to the death for 
dominance.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the struggle 
with oligarch Badri Patarkatsisvili who Saakashvili and his 
team believe will do anything to bring them down.  But this 
attitude seems all-pervasive.  When Republican Party leader 
Dato Usupashvili failed to receive the nomination to be the 
candidate for the United Opposition Council (UOC), many asked 
him what he was going to do now that he was "washed up" in 
politics.  He replied that he would soldier on as Chair of 
the Republican Party.  This vignette demonstrates how people 
think of politicians in Georgia - one is either dominant or 
out of the race.  There is simply no in-between.  As a 
result, when we speak to both opposition and ruling party 
officials, they play up their chances and offer wildly 
optimistic assessments of how their candidates will fare in 
the elections.  There is no polling or private assessment 
that we think is reliable.  The reality is that it is hard to 
tell how much support former President Saakashvili lost as a 
result of the November crack-down on demonstrators.  He has 
clearly lost some support in Tbilisi, but we believe that his 
support in the regions remains substantial. 
 
------------------------------------ 
LAYING THE GROUNDWORK FOR JANUARY 6? 
------------------------------------ 
 
3. (C) Perhaps acknowledging its almost certain defeat in the 
Presidential elections, the opposition's tactic has been to 
focus largely on the conduct of the campaign rather than on 
issues themselves.  As a result, most of the debate has been 
over opposition allegations that the ruling party has abused 
administrative resources, pressured individuals to vote for 
Saakashvili, and intimidated the media to report in an 
unbalanced way.  Although some of these arguments appear to 
have merit and the ruling party is using every political 
technique in the book to win over voters, the facts about 
many of these issues are not clear cut.  This has led to 
endless arguments over, for example, the definition of the 
use of administrative resources -- with both the ruling party 
and the opposition claiming to be in the right.  The presence 
of the OSCE's Office of Democratic Institutions and Human 
Rights as well as of Western Embassies has helped to keep 
blatant violations of the law in check but the parties have 
been campaigning Western Embassies and institutions almost as 
much as the Georgian electorate.  At times, it has seemed 
that the opposition is preparing more for a loss and 
subsequent demonstrations on January 6, than for a win on 
January 5. 
 
--------------------------------- 
WHAT GETS LOST?  OFTEN THE ISSUES 
--------------------------------- 
 
4. (C) There are real issues of concern for the average 
Georgian, most notably the failure of the Saakashvili 
Government's reforms to have much of an impact on the 
standard of living of most Georgians.  If anything, life for 
 
TBILISI 00003151  002 OF 003 
 
 
the average Georgian has become harder under Saakashvili as a 
result of continuing Russian bans on Georgian agriculture, 
wine and water as well as other structural reforms that 
resulted in layoffs, especia
lly of government employees. 
This has put a damper on the overwhelmingly strong public 
support for Saakashvili in the heady days after the Rose 
Revolution in 2003.  Many of his detractors are among the 
Tbilisi intelligentsia, who saw their privileged positions 
and guaranteed salaries and support systems disappear as 
Georgia enacted reforms to the Georgian education, health and 
other sectors.  Interestingly, it is the areas of Tbilisi 
where these residents live - the fashionable Vake district - 
where Saakashvili's support is its lowest.  The same is true 
in Adjara.  Many of Aslan Abashidze's cronies, who once 
benefited from his corrupt rule, have lost their livelihoods. 
 The result has been a low amount of support for the UNM in 
this region.  On the other hand, in regions such as Samegrelo 
and Kakheti, support for Saakashvili remains strong, based on 
improvements in electricity supply, road infrastructure and 
the like.  Job losses have not been as marked in such 
regions, where the economy is largely agricultural.  The 
National Movement's only worry in Zugdidi, for example, where 
it has clearly out-organized and out-campaigned the 
opposition, is that Saakashvili's victory will be so crushing 
that it raises instant complaints of fraud. 
 
5. (C) The Government under Saakashvili undertook its painful 
but critical reforms without perhaps enough emphasis on the 
social impact of those reforms on the average Georgian.  This 
is what the focus of the opposition, and the election debate, 
should rightly be.  For example, it is widely believed that 
the confidence (some would say arrogance) of the young and 
talented professionals around Saakashvili contributed to a 
lack of transparency and dialogue with the public over the 
pace and content of reforms that have impacted so many.  It 
is this blind spot that contributed to the larger than 
expected crowds that turned out on the street on November 7. 
Rather than listening and altering course earlier, the 
Government was forced to concede on every demand, but too 
late to avoid the massive protest and subsequent crackdown. 
The opposition, although now at least nominally united, has 
still not found its feet in terms of articulating and 
emphasizing those issues which matter most to the public.  It 
is no secret that the UNM campaign is better financed and 
better organized than any of its competitors. 
 
----------------------------------------- 
SOME UP SIDES: MOST COMPETITIVE RACE EVER 
----------------------------------------- 
 
6. (C) Despite these down sides, experts see this election as 
the most competitive in Georgian history.  With most of the 
opposition parties united behind a single (if uninspiring) 
candidate, the ruling party - and Saakashvili - for the first 
time will get a run for their money.  Despite a lot of focus 
on the modalities of the campaign, the candidates have been 
campaigning Western-style, with rallies throughout Georgia. 
In addition, for the first time since 1999, the inaccuracy of 
the voters' list is not the number one problem going into the 
elections.  As a result of improvements made by the 
Government and funded by USAID, there is more confidence in 
the list.  Also positively, experts believe that this 
campaign more than any other looks like a real competition 
with a stress on programs rather than personalities and that 
more promises are being made, even if many of them may be 
unrealistic.  Finally, as a result of this move toward more 
populist, Western style campaigning, experts believe that 
citizens are more likely to go to the polling station and 
participate in politics, with a belief that their vote really 
does matter in today's Georgia. 
 
-------------------------------- 
ON BALANCE, ENVIRONMENT IMPROVED 
-------------------------------- 
 
7. (C) On balance, we view the election environment as 
improved as a result of Georgia's commitment to achieving 
Euro-Atlantic standards of democracy required by NATO and the 
EU, as well as our work on the diplomatic and assistance 
sides.  The days of massive ballot stuffing - which was the 
spark that lead to the Rose Revolution - appear to be behind 
Georgia.  Candidates now feel the need to travel the country 
to lay out platforms and to solicit votes.  They are making 
Western style promises (albeit sometimes exaggerated) and 
starting to focus on social programs.  There is a real, if 
unresolved, debate on what is fair in terms of using an 
incumbent's natural advantage in the electoral campaign. 
Although Georgian culture colors the campaign with emotive 
language and at times sanguine predictions, it is clear that 
the campaign is moving slowly from a Soviet style one man 
show to a more populist, issue-centered contest in which the 
 
TBILISI 00003151  003 OF 003 
 
 
voter and his or her concerns come more to the fore. 
TEFFT

Wikileaks

07TBILISI3149, TBILISI ELECTIONS UPDATE 12/21/07

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI3149 2007-12-21 10:53 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO7732
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #3149/01 3551053
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 211053Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8499
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 003149 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/21/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: TBILISI ELECTIONS UPDATE 12/21/07 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
------------------------------- 
OSCE AMBASSADORIAL WORKING GROUP 
-------------------------------- 
 
1.  (C)  At the 21 December meeting of the OSCE Ambassadorial 
Working Group, the Chairman of the Election (CEC) Levan 
Tarkhnishvili addressed the group.  He discussed the 
following points: 
 
- Cameras at the polling stations:  The CEC distributed a 
press release explaining the purpose of video surveillance 
cameras during election day.  The misperception of some 
voters is that the cameras will be used to monitor their 
ballot selection, rather than monitor the registration and 
ballot box.  Tarkhnishvili is seeking to heighten public 
awareness about the cameras and debunk inaccurate rumors.  He 
further underlined that the use of filming/photo making 
devices in the PECs on Election Day is strictly prohibited, 
to include photos taken by cellphones.  He stated that the 
Ministry of Internal Affairs will make public statements 
about this policy.  If ballots are photographed or 
compromised by use of photographic equipment, they will be 
deemed invalid. (Note: Some opposition representatives have 
claimed to us that public servants have been instructed to 
photograph their ballots in the voting booth, as proof they 
voted for the ruling party.) 
 
- CEC Media Monitoring:  Tarkhnishvili presented the group 
with a copy of the media report from the company CEC had 
outsourced to monitor television stations during the 
pre-election phase.  His information indicated that 
Saakashvili is paying for most of his airtime and is on 
television more often, as compared to the opposition 
candidates who are relying on free ad time.  This report will 
be published twice weekly and posted on the CEC website.  The 
ODIHR media expert who followed Tarkhnishvili, Rasto Kuzel, 
subsequently made two observations about the CEC media 
report.  First,  while the number of appearances for each of 
the candidates is about the same, the total number of minutes 
dedicated to Saakashvili is substantially more.  Second, the 
three main stations are giving Saakashvili extra time.  The 
example he gave to illustrate this is that on Sunday Mze, 
Rustavi, and Public TV all ran during prime time the same 
28-minute segment on Saakashvili's visit to Rustavi.  Based 
on the first seven days of Imedi TV's broadcasting, he noted 
that the bulk of the time is dedicated to information 
critical of Saakashvili who gets 39.2 percent coverage, 
compared to Badri Patarkatsishvili getting 14.7 percent, 
Gachechiladze 18.3 percent, Natelashvili 10 percent and 
Gamkrelidze 13.8 percent.  Kuzel noted that Kavkasiya, a 
regional station, heavily criticized Saakashvili. 
 
- Updating the voters list: The opposition has continued to 
stress that the voters list is not accurate and the large 
number of absent or deceased voters on the list will open the 
door to fraud.  The CEC has compiled a fact sheet on the most 
commonly asked questions about the voter's list. 
Tarkhnishvili complained that during the entire time that the 
voter's list was open for revision, he received not one 
single complaint from the Opposition.  Ambassador Igor Gaon, 
Council of Europe (CoE), said that CoE's door-to-door effort 
to update the voter's list was cut short by the early 
elections,  and they did not get to at least one third of the 
population.  At any rate, the list is significantly more 
accurate than it was for the local elections in 2006.  He 
stated Georgia's large internal immigration made the margin 
of error of the list at least 4 percent.  He stated that 
beginning on February 1st, the CoE would conduct an audit on 
the voter's list and again seek to further improve the 
accuracy. 
 
- Tarkhnishvili shared a fact sheet on the participation of 
political officials and Public servants during the 
pre-election process.  He stated that people do not 
understand the difference in these two definitions and thus 
the complaint that there is an abuse of administrative 
resources.  His fact sheet states, that according to the 
Election Code, Political Officials (those specifically listed 
are the President, Members of Parliament, Prime Minister and 
members of government of Georgia, Members of the High 
Representative Bodies of Adjara and Abkhazia and Head of 
government of the Republic of Adjara and Abkhazia, Deputy 
Ministers, members of local government, and head of the 
executive body) have a right participate in pre-election 
campaigning, while public servants of state and local 
governments do not have a right to participate in 
pre-election campaigning and/or agitation while executing 
service commitments.  Those listed as public servants are 
members of the election commission, public servants employed 
 
TBILISI 00003149  002 OF 002 
 
 
at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Defense, Prosecutor's 
Office, Foreign Intelligence and Special Security Services, 
and public officials of state and local governments while 
they are carrying out duties related to their office and work 
responsibilities.  Others listed who may not participate are 
foreign citizens and organizations, and charity and religious &#x00
0A;organizations.  Additionally, pre-election activities cannot 
take place on government of sub-agency departments of 
Executive and Legislative Bodies. 
 
---------------------------- 
Changes in the Election Code 
---------------------------- 
 
2.  (U)  The information below encapsulates the most recent 
amendments to the election code and Law on Referendum that 
were passed by the Parliament of Georgia in December. 
 
- Boundaries of Precinct Election Commission (PEC) were 
changed upon the recommendation of the Venice Commission from 
the Council of Europe.  Before each PEC included 2,000 
voters, but now will include only 1,500.  This result in a 
higher number of PECs. 
 
- Composition of PEC, DEC, and CEC:  The CEC is now composed 
of its chairperson and 12 members, all of whom are appointed 
for a five year term.  The chairperson and five members are 
nominated by the President and elected by the Parliament, 
while seven members are appointed by political parties.  DEC 
composition has not changed and remains without party 
representation.  DECs consist of five members selected in an 
open competition and appointed by the CEC for a five-year 
term.  The PEC composition mirrors that of the CEC with six 
members appointed by DECs and seven by parties represented in 
the CEC. 
 
- Additional Voters List:  Election day registration of 
voters erroneously omitted from the general voter list was 
introduced by the latest amendments and will be possible upon 
presentation of an ID and a document proving a voter's 
residency on a precinct's territory.  Those voters are 
required to put an envelope with their ballot papers in an 
additional envelope that is different in size and color from 
the ones used by regular voters, and their votes will be 
processed under special procedures. 
 
- Voting for Servicemen:  If servicemen wish to vote at the 
place of registration, he/she must notify the appropriate PEC 
and will be included into the general list of voters. 
 
- Media Coverage:  Each qualified candidate will now be 
provided 90 seconds of free airtime every three hours.  The 
public broadcaster is obliged to provide free airtime for 60 
seconds per hour for each qualified candidate. 
 
 
----------------------- 
Plebiscite Formulation 
----------------------- 
 
3.  (U)  According to the Minister of Justice the Interagency 
Task Force has agreed on the questions of the plebiscite 
which will be the following: "Do you support Georgia's 
adhesion to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)?" 
and "Do you agree to hold the next election to the Georgian 
Parliament in Spring 2008?" With this wording, the opposition 
which favors spring elections will now be able to campaign 
easier than campaigning for "no." 
 
TEFFT

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07TBILISI3148, GEORGIA: PRE-ELECTION TRIP TO AKHALKALAKI,

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI3148 2007-12-21 10:50 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO7725
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSI #3148/01 3551050
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 211050Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8497
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 003148 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA:  PRE-ELECTION TRIP TO AKHALKALAKI, 
JAVAKHETI REGION 
 
 1.  (SBU)  Summary: Poloff visited the Armenian minority 
region of Akhalkalaki in Javakheti December 18-19 to gauge 
the pre-election mood of the political parties, NGOs, press 
and general populace in the lead-up to the January 5 snap 
Presidential elections.  This impoverished region 
traditionally gives strong support to incumbent parties and 
this election is no exception.  There are fewer outward signs 
of campaigning here, especially by the opposition, than in 
other regions.  To date, none of the candidates have visited 
Akhalkalaki. The opposition claims support for Saakashvili is 
driven by fear of reprisals for opposing him, and by the 
ruling party's inappropriate use of administrative resources. 
 Saakashvili's supporters point instead to his 
accomplishments in the last four years, especially in 
improving the region's infrastructure.  End Summary. 
 
 
----------------------------- 
The United National Movement 
----------------------------- 
 
2. (SBU)  The UNM representative Hamlet Movsesyan listed the 
improvements in the Akhalkalaki region under Saakashvili's 
government:  construction of a 70 kilometer new road from 
Akhaltsikhe to Akhalkalaki; the Millennium Challenge Project 
of building a road from Akhalkalaki through Tsalka to 
Tbilisi; refurbishment of new schools; opening of a new 
vocational school; construction of a natural gas pipeline 
which will bring gas to all sectors of the city over the next 
three years; and regular electricity and payment of salaries 
to government employees. Movsesyan said locals are personally 
affected by the bad relationship between Georgia and Russia 
as many have relatives in Russia and can no longer visit 
there due to the visa regime now in place.  With regards to 
NATO, he said that generally residents are negative about 
NATO membership as they have little information about the 
organization.  He discounted that there would be confusion on 
Election Day about where residents should vote as a result of 
the increase in the number of Precinct Election Commissions 
(PEC), saying the location of the precincts was widely 
broadcast on the local television channel.  He commented that 
Opposition candidates were not actively working in the region 
and as a result the population is not aware of their 
platforms. 
 
-------------------- 
Akhalkalaki Governor 
-------------------- 
 
3.  (SBU)  Artur Yeremenyan, Akhalkalaki District Governor, 
focused on the accomplishments of the Saakashvili 
administration in the region, highlighting many of the same 
points as Movsesyan.  He said that the vouchers for 
fire-wood, flour and some packages of food-stuffs as well as 
New Year's greeting letters from the Acting President are 
being distributed by Saakashvili's headquarters, even though 
Tbilisi sends them to the local administration.  Yeremenyan 
said problems still remain in Akhalkalaki, but the local 
government is moving forward through strong cooperation with 
NGOs, shifting the emphasis from humanitarian efforts to 
development.  He was uncertain whether election-related 
materials would be translated into Armenian.  Yeremenyan 
stressed the issue of bad relations with Russia could be 
effectively used by Saakashvili's opponents for "Black PR." 
 
------------- 
New Rightists 
------------- 
 
4.  (SBU)  New Rightists representative Armen Farmanian, and 
Giorgi Nikolaishvili told Poloffs that their candidate has 
not yet been to Akhalkalaki, but plans on making an 
appearance on December 21.  They said that they had been 
unable to use the Cultural Center as a venue as they were 
told by the local government that the structure was under 
repair.    The New Rights representatives focused on the 
negative aspects of life in Akhalkalaki:  unemployment due to 
the closure of the Russian base; the fear that NATO would 
station Turkish troops at the former Russian military site; 
intimidation by local authorities as to the consequences of 
not voting for Saakashvili; and voters being asked to give up 
their IDs to local authorities.  Both were convinced that 
these IDs would be used in some capacity to falsify votes, 
but they could not explain how.  Farmanian noted that one of 
the newly created PECs would be located in a private 
building, and the owner was very much against it. 
 
------------------------- 
United Opposition Council 
------------------------- 
 
TBILISI 00003148  002 OF 002 
 
 
 
5.  (SBU)  United Opposition Council representative Otar 
Iagurashvili, Republican party, and Giorgi Elibegov, Freedom 
party,  told Poloffs that they were having no success in 
reaching the local electorate as they were being watched by 
the local police and residents were afraid to approach them. 
They had noted the plate numbers and passed them to David 
Usupashvili.  Both relayed to Poloff that the local council 
was slow to answer their requests for where they were allowed 
to hang their election placards and banners.  They echo
ed the 
comments of the New Rightist party representatives in that 
they too were told by local officials that the Cultural 
Center was not available as a venue due to repairs (ref para 
4).  Both representatives had traveled to meet Poloff that 
very day from Tbilisi and it did not seem that they had 
dedicated office space and an organized plan.  Elibegov 
stressed the importance of permitting voters to vote on the 
day of elections.  He was deeply concerned that voter's lists 
were inaccurate and if someone's name was not on the list, he 
would not be permitted to vote. 
 
------------------------ 
European Center for NGOs 
------------------------ 
 
6. (SBU)   Poloffs met with local NGOS representatives at the 
European Center for NGOs.  Most of the discussion centered 
around regional issues, not the Presidential election.  All 
NGOs shared complaints about lack of employment, lack of 
status of the Armenian language as a regional administrative 
language, lack of local government autonomy from the center, 
and construction by the federal government of a prison near 
Ninotsminda which they  allege was not coordinated with the 
local government prior to construction. Their concern was 
that Georgians, ostensibly family members of the prisoners, 
would move to the region, thereby changing the demographics. 
With regards to the elections, most all said that locals 
cannot take part in the local political process.  If they 
would support the opposition it would bring them personal 
misfortune, as it would be certain, in their eyes, to bring 
disfavor from the local authorities who would treat them like 
traitors.  One NGO spokesman said, "None of us here 
participated in the protests in Tbilisi, because we knew that 
this would cause us nothing but problems.  As  a minority in 
Georgia we have enough problems."   One in the group alleged 
that local authorities advised him not to attend the 
roundtable. 
 
---------------- 
Press Roundtable 
---------------- 
 
7.  (SBU)  Press representatives told Poloff that they were 
frustrated with the lack of information that was available in 
Russian or Armenian about the candidates' platforms.  None of 
the candidates had visited the city, and as far as they knew, 
none of them were addressing minority issues. Some of them 
expressed concern that voters were being intimidated, and had 
little faith in reporting it to the authorities. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
8.  (SBU)  Traditionally, minorities in the region have voted 
for the ruling party.  In the past the majority of them have 
voted for Gamsakhurdia, Shevardnadze, and Saakashvili. 
Although sentiments run high in the region as to the 
importance of their language and need for self-autonomy, when 
it comes to the polls they typically vote the party line. 
None of the opposition candidates have addressed minorities 
concerns in their platforms, which could either indicate that 
they are not of importance to them as potential voters, or 
more likely that their campaign energies may yield better 
fruit elsewhere given the region's typical voting record. 
TEFFT

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